PENTAGON: The Navy’s new offices for unmanned systems — that’s drones or robots to you and me — are a long-overdue reform, two top experts tell us. But, as emphasized by both our outside sources and the new Navy officials themselves, it’s equally important to understand the initiative’s limits. This is not an overhaul of the… Keep reading →
NAVAL AIR STATION PATUXENT RIVER, MD: Pax River is a robot zoo today, showcasing unmanned vehicles from micro-mini-submarines — so small you can throw one like a football — to what appears to be a solar-powered canoe. More than 40 systems here from 30 projects and six nations were gathered by the US Office of… Keep reading →
Think it’s hard to find a place to charge your smartphone at the airport? Try finding a power outlet in the ocean. Imagine you’re a robotic Navy mini-sub whose batteries are running low after a long mission monitoring, say, traffic around Chinese artificial islands in the South Pacific. Currently, you’d have to recharge at a land… Keep reading →
THE FUTURE: Imagine you’re a Chinese high commander, taking stock at the outbreak of the next great war. All your aides and computer displays tell you the same thing: For hundreds of miles out into the Western Pacific, the sea and sky are yours. They are covered by the overlapping threat zones of your long-range land-based missiles, your… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: Submarines have been America’s invisible advantage since World War II. But the oceans are getting more transparent. New detection technologies from low-frequency sonar to flashing LEDs — plus the big data computing power to enhance the faint signals they pick up — are making submarines much easier to detect. The same water-penetrating wavelengths, however, will… Keep reading →
Just nine months after hosting the biggest multinational mine-warfare exercises “ever” to be held in and around the Persian Gulf, the Navy’s 5th Fleet and its foreign partners outdid themselves with a second, even larger wargame. More than 20 nations participated in September’s International Mine Counter-Measures Exercise 2012, collaborating against fictional ecoterrorists whose capabilities were suspiciously… Keep reading →
WASHINGTON: This Saturday the Navy will christen its newest nuclear-powered submarine, the $2.6 billion USS Minnesota at the Newport News shipyard in Virginia. Countless movies have cemented the popular image of subs as stealthy underwater killers, stalking hapless surface vessels with periscope and torpedo. But today’s Navy is experimenting with launching robotic mini-subs and even unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from Virginia-class attack subs like the Minnesota.
In Navy tests of a mini-UAV called Switchblade, “you can launch it, you can control it, you can get video feed back to the submarine,” said Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, chief of the undersea warfare section (N97) on the Navy staff, at the recent Naval Submarine League symposium in suburban Washington. Future subs could also launch unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to scout ahead stealthily beneath the surface. “It sure beats the heck out of looking out of a periscope at a range of maybe 10,000 to 15,000 yards on a good day,” Bruner said. “Now you’re talking 20 to 40 miles.” Keep reading →