Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sea Net Will Hear All

A global sensor net at sea is being built:

The increasing availability of inexpensive USVs and UUVs (unmanned surface and underwater vessels) has made the future uncomfortable for submarine crews. Searching for submarines (ASW, anti-submarine warfare) is evolving into a a job carried out by relentless robots. ... This sort of thing is really scary for submarine crews because these small UUVs are silent, making them nearly impossible to detect and even more difficult to destroy.

Since 2009 the U.S. Navy has been developing and testing a series of robotic mini-submarines, which the navy now calls AUVs (Autonomous Undersea Vehicle) because they operate largely on their own. These AUVs are silent, very small, and able to operate on their own for up to a year. The first models were two meters (six feet) long and weighed 59 kg (130 pounds) and built to operate completely on its own collecting valuable information about underwater “weather”. What this AUV does is automatically move slowly (30-70 kilometers a day) underwater, collecting data on salinity and temperature and transmitting back via a satellite link every hour or so as the AUV briefly reaches the surface.

When we've learned enough about how salty the sea is, I assume these long-endurance robots will actually look for submarines 24/7.

Well, we could build such a net with these USVs and UUVs. Or somebody could.

But the surface ship crews shouldn't gloat too much. If these USVs and UUVz can listen for near-silent submarines, how much easier will it be to listen for surface ships churning along?

One day, getting lost in the expanse of the oceans may become a lot more difficult.

And where you can remain unheard may be spaces on the oceans that are too remote to draw the attention of the robots.

But perhaps that's where anti-robot robots come in. Although an enemy will know something is going on by the mere absence of data that results from the destruction of the robots.

How far into this world do we have to go before the notion of large capital ships becomes obsolete?