As above, so below.
While the global drone arms race heats up across the planet, filling the sky with automated weapons of war, it makes perfect sense that the seas would soon follow.
Amid cries of restraint from members of the scientific community and academia, as well as those within the field of robotics, the U.S. military is forging ahead with the development of a 132-foot “stalker” warship that might soon patrol the world’s oceans in search of enemies.
“This is an inflection point,” Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Work said in an interview, adding he hoped such ships might find a place in the western Pacific in as few as five years. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship.” (emphasis added)
(Source: Reuters “U.S. military christens self-driving ‘Sea Hunter’ warship”)
Although mainstream media might playfully compare it to a sea-bound version of Google’s self-driving car, DARPA describes it as follows:
DARPA’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program has designed, developed and constructed an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel—one intended to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for months at a time, all without a single crew member aboard.
Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary, Robert Work, is once again out on the campaign trail stumping for a future filled with these unmanned systems that will ensure U.S. dominance within the “battlespace,” as he likes to call planet Earth.
I recently covered Work’s sit-down meeting with the Washington Post, where he implored the world to understand that the U.S. is playing catch-up to the rogue nations of the world who supposedly are showing signs of mastering this emerging technology. Hence, they are forcing the hand of the U.S. to become more creative in its approach to future war planning. As I pointed out in “Pentagon Warns of Killer Robot Threat (From Other Countries Of Course),” this notion is pure and admitted propaganda.
In reality, prior to becoming Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary on April 30th, 2014, Robert Work co-authored a 44-page paper in January of that same year entitled “Preparing for War in the Robotic Age” (.pdf) when he was still CEO at the Center for a New American Security. The very first sentence of the Executive Summary states in no uncertain terms who has kicked off this race to develop automated weapons:
Over the past several decades, the United States has been an aggressive first mover in a war-fighting regime centered on guided munitions and integrated battle networks. These innovations have allowed U.S. forces to operate relatively uncontested in space, in the air, and on and under the sea, and to dominate conventional force-on-force land combat. For a variety of reasons – the geopolitics of rising powers, the global diffusion of technology and counter-reactions by its adversaries chief among them – the preeminence enjoyed by the United States in this regime is starting to erode.
It’s an amazing document for which this first sentence barely does justice for what is revealed throughout.
So, once again we are given a DARPA press release of sorts that covers a program supposedly in development. But this is not even the first time that drone boats with the ability to patrol, and attack, enemies have been covered in establishment media. CNN reported in 2014 that the “U.S. Navy could ‘swarm’ foes with robot boats.”
The U.S. Navy is getting ready to “swarm” its adversaries.
The Office of Naval Research over the weekend released video of tests conducted in August that showed five “drone” boats swarming a vessel that posed a threat to a Navy ship.
“The U.S. Navy is unleashing a new era in advanced ship protection,” the service says in the video.
Controlled by what the Navy calls Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing (CARACaS), a sensor and software kit that is transferable among small vessels, a fleet of more than a dozen small unmanned boats cruise along the James River in Virginia, setting up a protective screen on a Navy research ship.
When a threatening vessel is detected, five boats break off to confront it.
Robert Work would know this, as he also was the Undersecretary of the Navy from 2009-2013.
All of this is to say that the Sea Hunter project, specifically, might be new; but the concept is most certainly not, nor is the spokesperson for this initiative part of a group of humble public servants just trying to “figure things out” as Work has intimated in past interviews.
Naturally we’ll never really know how far advanced the current state of robotic warfare is, but at least we are being publicly offered the blueprints for what we can expect. According to Secretary Work, this single robotic warship prototype will only kick-start what he envisions as oceans filled with unmanned craft:
“I would like to see unmanned flotillas operating in the western Pacific and the Persian Gulf within five years,” he said, comparing the protype [sic] ship to early drone aircraft.
At the very least, unless costs are significantly reduced, this appears to be another outrageously expensive military expenditure. Reuters reports a price tag of $20 million per warship and operating costs of up to $20,000 per day.
This announcement should be further viewed as merely one part of a much, much wider desire to see a full matrix of war where all systems on land, in the air, and below the surface will communicate and orchestrate missions absent human input. In fact, a possible practice run of this wider concept has been scheduled for October off the Scottish Coast as the allies line up for the largest demonstration to date – Unmanned Warrior 2016.
At this point, all we are left with are the assurances from Robert Work that the Sea Hunter will not be armed, it’s merely a patrol boat — hoping, I suppose, that people have not read about previous military strategies.
“There’s no reason to be afraid of a ship like this,” Work told reporters at the ceremony.
Watch this video, check the documents, consider history, and decide for yourself. Please leave your comments below.
Hat tip: ZenGardner.com