US Navy: SM-6 launches from modular launcher off of USV Ranger
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In a futuristic attempt to cut down on the casualties of war, the US Navy is looking to expand its fleet with uncrewed “ghost ships”. Just like the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) deployed by the US in Syria and Afghanistan, the ghost ships can strike targets with deadly precision and without risking the lives of soldiers. The US Department of Defense demonstrated the capabilities of one such robot ship in a video recently published on Twitter.
The brief clip follows an unmanned surface vehicle (USV), dubbed Ranger, as it sets out to sea.
Armed with mobile missile platforms on its deck, the robot ship was filmed firing a single SM-6 missile into the sky.
The SM-6 or Standard Missile 6 is a powerful, anti-air warhead developed specifically for the US Navy.
Each missile costs the US about £3.6million ($5million) to produce.
The demonstration follows reports earlier this summer Russia has refused to regulate the use of autonomous weaponry or “killer robots” in warfare.
According to a report in Naval Post, the SM-6 missiles can be deployed against enemy helicopters, aircraft and cruise missiles with an extended capability of striking moving targets on land and sea.
The DoD tweeted: “See the game-changing, cross-domain, cross-service concepts the Strategic Capabilities Office and @USNAvy are rapidly developing: an SM-6 launched from a modular launcher off of USV Ranger.
“Such innovation drives the future of joint capabilities. #DoDInnovates.”
The US ghost ships are being developed by the DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) as part of the Ghost Fleet Overlord Program.
The programme is presently in its second stage, which is expected to wrap up by the end of 2022.
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At the start of the year, the programme celebrated a major milestone after one of its robot ships completed a 4,700 nautical mile trip without onboard guidance from a human.
The trip saw the USV sail from the Gulf Coast to the coast of California.
The only time a human took over was when the ship traversed the Panama Canal.
Jay Dryer, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), hailed the accomplishment.
He said: “This is a historic milestone for the programme and the Navy.
“It represents what SCO does best: integrate mature technologies to accelerate service priorities and create new capabilities for our warfighters.”
Another uncrewed demonstration, saw the SCO deploy a robot ship during the Dawn Blitz exercise with the Navy and Marine Corps.
The USV operated autonomously for 130 hours straight and travelled some 950 nautical miles.
About 98 percent of this mission was carried out without any input from humans.
Once the USVs are fully approved for service, the SCO will hand them over to the US Navy.
According to the financial group Allianz, the vast majority of maritime disasters are caused by human error.
The US Navy is looking to eliminate this problem by removing humans from the equations as much as possible.
An analysis of 15,000 marine accidents between 2011 and 2016 showed human error played a key role in 75 percent of these.
According to Allianz, it is estimated between 75 and 96 percent of all marine accidents can involve human error.
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