• Thanks for stopping by. Logging in to a registered account will remove all generic ads. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Who needs sailors anyway?

But not quite with the same result. Just stopping the propeller cold on a 12m Rhib running at 28 Kts will stop it in about 20 meters. Your T1 tanker running at 16 Kts will take anywhere from 3.5 to 5 NM to come to a stop. it's called momentum and that is where all the experience of a master or pilot comes into play: judging momentum, wind, waves and currents effect on a vessel - and knowing things like judging where you need to act in view of advance, transfer and distances to new courses. I am sure that autonomous systems can deal with those through instantaneous recognition of being "off-the-programmed-course" from things like GPS or local high precision sensors and from algorithms, but to teach remote drivers how to judge those factors takes years and years.

And BTW, if you go full autonomous, who is going to switch the engines on your container ship from light diesel to bunker and back to cover the long same speed leg in the middle of the voyage? And if you have maintainers or engineers onboard, would they trust that there is no one on the bridge?

I am not against technology, I am just saying there are many impondreables to consider here. Things like, what do you do if the steering gear decides to fail in the Suez canal? Or if the main engines crash stop in mid-Pacific?

BTW, Kirkhill, re: the Iron view helmet: I can't find it now, but a few years ago, I saw similar technology being developed for container ships. Basically, at the flip of a switch, it projected an image on the bridge windows that made it possible for the bridge personnel to seem to look through the containers and hull so they could see everything near the ship at their front. When you consider that the sight lines on a loaded container ship prevents the bridge team from seeing the first couple of nautical miles in front of them, that would be a great tool. Can't find any reference to it anymore though, and don't know how ar they got with the tech.

WRT stopping distance I think that is precisely where the autonomous aspect would show themselves. The Captain would not be the Master. The Master would be the AI ship itself. The Ship would ask the Captain for permissions and instructions.

WRT engines and fuels - why couldn't that be handled with automation? Maersk Triple Es already run with crews of 13. I think that would be a good number for a large autonomous ship. With a skeleton requirement of 4.

As to Colin's point about needing manning in some harbours ... put the bridge crew on board with the pilot. And drive the ship from here


Perhaps with one of the fancy helmets.
I agree with both the large number of "imponderables - unknown unknowns" and the need for regular maintenance (including regular calibration of sensors and actuators).

I'm not sure about the need for taking vessels off line for maintenance. Maintenance crews could be dropped aboard as necessary. Suppliers are doing that with manned vessels now.
Port of Prince Rupert trialed pilot boarding's by helicopter, they liked it, but determined you needed a certain number of vessels to make it financially viable. They still keep the option there if required, but generally do it by pilot boat, but boarding's are never dull.
Large Un(...) Surface - 1000-2000 tonne corvette for killing ships and shore attacks
Medium Un(...) Surface - 500 tonne ISR patrol craft
Extra Large Un(...) Underwater - A "subway car" capable of deploying CAPTOR type mines.

This ship is fitted with but not for sailors.

Unlike commissioned warships, the Patrick Blackett will fly the Blue Ensign — denoting a government-owned civilian vessel — though she will be commanded by a naval officer and carry a naval crew of five. Her hull is also black instead of naval grey, bearing the new ship’s unique NATO pennant number: X01.
Nelson's line of frigates will be uninhabited and cloud based.

,,, the service (USN) is making major investments in unmanned technology, which he views as “the way of the future.”

The service has also been putting industry’s products through their paces.

“The pace of innovation is amazing,” Capt. Michael Brasseur, commander of Task Force 59, said in a statement when 5th Fleet’s Digital Horizon drone experimentation event kicked off last month. “We are challenging our industry partners in one of the most difficult operational environments, and they are responding with enhanced capability, fast.”

U.S. Naval Forces Central Command is creating a “mesh network” of AI-equipped unmanned surface vessels that carry cameras and transmit data via the cloud. The USVs and enabling technologies are expected to enhance the sea service’s situational awareness in the vast bodies of water near the Middle East. The drones have been equipped with cameras that can keep an eye on what’s going on and alert commanders when they detect something notable

Is it important to be able to see what the enemy is doing, and broadcasting that information? Or is it important to keep the knowledge of what the enemy is doing to yourself?

It used to be standard practice to encrypt our own locations but to communicate enemy positions in the clear because, presumably, the enemy knew where it was and therefore the only thing you were doing was telling them that you knew what they knew. Any encryption would just have slowed info passage and also allowed the enemy the opportunity to decrypt the current code.

In a world under 24/7 observation by Open Source Intelligence perhaps the right response is to just add to the clutter of information and ensure that the information you need or want is amongst it and to rely on the clutter itself to disguise your interest and intent.

Leidos secures $95m contract to manage Overlord and medium USV​

Naval Sea Systems Command has awarded Leidos a new task order, emphasising the Navy's push into autonomous maritime operations.
By Andrew Salerno-Garthwaite

The US Navy’s medium displacement uncrewed surface vessel, Sea Hunter. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aleksandr Freutel.
Leidos announced on 17 August that it has one (sic - edit: won) a contract for a new task order from Naval Sea Systems Command for the management of the Navy’s Overlord and Medium Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs) for $95m, if all options are exercised.
“This task order starts an important phase in the Navy’s evolution of USVs and integrating them into distributed maritime operations,” said Dave Lewis, Leidos Defense Group senior vice president and Maritime Systems operations manager. “The power of this technology lies in its ability to operate independently and extend the horizon of crewed ships. We look forward to supporting the Navy as they continue this important journey into the future.”
The contract has a one-year base period, with two one-year options, and expands Leidos’ experience managing USV operations and maintenance, following the delivery to the Navy of four operational medium-sized USVs: Mariner; Ranger; Sea Hunter; and Seahawk.

Prototypes for the latter three vessels recently participating in the multinational exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, where they worked side-by-side other exercise participants, providing intelligence, carrying payloads and gathering data.

The Mariner, like the Ranger before it, is a 205 feet long Overlord unmanned surface vessel, outfitted with next-gen command and control systems, autonomous navigation, and a virtualised Aegis Combat System.
(Edit - so a commercial Offshore Supply Vessel (OSV) that was fully automated and fitted with the Aegis Combat System to become CEC* nodes).

Seahawk is an upgraded version of Sea Hunter
. Both Vessels are upwards of 130 feet long, with Sea Hunter coming in at 132 feet and the slightly larger Seahawk being 135 feet. They were designed to stay at sea for prolonged periods without crew, up to several months without taking on board personnel. CNBC reports that the price tag on the newest medium USV is $20m, with a running cost estimated to be between $15,000 and $20,000.

According to GlobalData’s ‘Global Naval Vessels and Surface Combatants Market 2023-2033’ report, the adoption of USV’s is expected to ‘revolutionise’ naval warfare, bringing advancements to complex missions, including ISR and mine-hunting.

*CEC - Co-Operative Engagement Capability
Other USN CEC nodes




All of which leads to this

China’s Taiwan invasion: Battle for the Strait will be a colossal missile duel​

Ukraine has shown that a navy without ships can still rule the sea

In the run-up to Taiwan’s 1996 presidential election, China mobilised troops and fired missiles into the waters surrounding the Republic of China, attempting to frighten Taiwanese voters into supporting the pro-Beijing candidate. It was a clear threat to the island country, then transitioning to democratic government.

The US Navy responded with one of its biggest peacetime shows of force in a generation. Two aircraft carriers and an amphibious assault ship plus their escorting cruisers and destroyers deployed to the vicinity of Taiwan. The Nimitz carrier battle group steamed through the Taiwan Strait twice – a reminder that the United States could, at the time, intervene at will to end a Chinese invasion attempt. The Taiwanese voted in President Lee Teng-Hui, rejecting his opponent who favoured “re-unification” with China.

The ’96 crisis motivated Beijing to embark on a far-reaching military modernization. Twenty-seven years later, the Chinese navy, air force and army are among the most sophisticated in the world. And while the Chinese fleet by some measures is also the biggest in the world, it’s China’s land-based weapons that might pose the greatest threat to the American fleet. Certainly it would be a bold US admiral who took a carrier group through the Taiwan Strait in time of war today.

But two can play that game. Today American forces are also building up a land-based missile arsenal – one that could quickly send any Chinese invasion force to the bottom of the Taiwan Strait. More and more, naval warfare is moving onto dry ground.

After 50 years of relentless expansion, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has around 355 front-line warships. The US Navy by contrast has just 297 front-line ships. But American ships on average are much bigger and heavily-armed than Chinese ships. While the US fleet can sail into battle with as many as 10,500 offensive munitions including anti-ship and land-attack missiles, the PLAN can deploy with just 4,200 offensive missiles.

The People’s Republic of China decided years ago that land-based missiles were the cheap and easy way to close that firepower gap.

“The PRC’s robust ground-based conventional missile forces complement the growing size and capabilities of its air- and sea-based precision-strike capabilities,” the US Defense Department stated in its 2021 report on the Chinese military.

The PLA Rocket Force’s arsenal of at least 1,300 ballistic missiles includes the 22-ton DF-26, which can hit ships as far as 2,500 miles from the Chinese coast. The Americans call the DF-26 and the shorter-ranged DF-21D “carrier-killers.”

Not without reason. The US Navy’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers fared poorly in a recent series of war games, simulating a Chinese invasion of Taiwan in 2026, organised by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. Even when the United States successfully defended Taiwan – as it did in most of CSIS’s simulations – the USN lost at least two carriers, and sometimes as many as four.

Keenly aware of the danger China’s land-based missiles pose to American ships, the Pentagon is trying to maintain its advantage over the PLA by building up its own arsenal of land-based anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles. Chinese missiles might whittle at American naval power, but can they do it faster than America’s missiles carve away China’s naval power?

The US Marine Corps has led the way. In 2020, the amphibious-warfare branch began a bottom-up reorganization for island-hopping warfare. It disbanded all of its tank battalions and shifted the manpower and money to new “littoral regiments” armed with two different kinds of anti-ship missiles – hundreds of them, in total – mounted on robotic trucks: 900-pound Naval Strike Missiles capable of sinking ships a hundred miles away, and 2,900-pound Tomahawk missiles boasting an impressive 1,000-mile range.

Meanwhile, the US Army is also acquiring anti-ship missiles. The Army is spending billions of dollars to integrate two separate missile types onto heavylift trucks. One is the same Tomahawk cruise missile the Marines are getting, and which the US Navy already possesses in large numbers. The other is the Navy’s SM-6, an air-defense ballistic missile with significant surface-strike capability – and which can range hundreds of miles.

Both the Army and Marine Corps have experimented with their High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers in an effort to transform them into anti-ship weapons, too. The wheeled HIMARS can fire the 3,700-pound, 190-mile-range Army Tactical Missile System. In 2016, the Army began modifying the seekers on some ATACMS in order to improve their ability to hit ships. There’s no reason the Marines can’t adopt the same missile.

Between the Naval Strike Missile, Tomahawk, SM-6 and ATACMS, the USMC and US Army are quickly catching up to the PLA Rocket Forces with their DF-21D, DF-26 and other anti-ship missiles. On both sides of the Taiwan Strait, opposing land forces are becoming powerful maritime forces.

Don’t underestimate how decisive land-based missiles can be in a naval war. After scuttling its sole frigate in the early hours of the wider Russian invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian navy has just one large ship left: an aging landing ship that has been hiding out near the mouth of the Dnipro River.

But that hasn’t stopped Ukrainian forces from fighting the Russian Black Sea Fleet to a standstill over 19 months of bloody warfare. In March 2022, a Ukrainian army Tochka-U ballistic missile blasted the Russian landing ship Saratov in the port of Berdyansk in occupied southern Ukraine. The following month, a Ukrainian navy Neptune anti-ship cruise missile sank the Russian cruiser Moskva. Ukrainian missiles have also destroyed the Russian rescue ship Vasily Bekh and several Black Sea Fleet patrol boats.

The Ukrainian navy is now effectively a shipless fleet, but no less dangerous for its lack of large vessels. Between its locally-made Neptunes and Western-made Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles, as well as its missile-armed TB-2 drones and one-way explosive drone boats, the Ukrainian navy isn’t just holding the Russian Black Sea Fleet at bay, it’s actively beating back the fleet’s 30 surviving warships. When Black Sea Fleet ships leave port, they do so briefly – usually only long enough to launch a few cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities.

Now imagine the same kind of land-based naval warfare, but on a much bigger scale. In any future clash between fleets, the US and Chinese navies wouldn’t just have each other to worry about. Missile batteries on land will be equally dangerous to both fleets.

And it should be remembered that it is not the defenders of Taiwan who need to be able to move in the seas around Taiwan: it would be the Chinese invaders who would have to cross the Strait under a hail of Taiwanese and US missiles, many of them potentially launched from ships, aircraft or temporary mobile bases far from the Strait itself.

China has changed the military picture since the crisis of 1996: but it seems unlikely to have changed it enough to be sure of successfully invading Taiwan. Or not yet, at least.