Monday, March 25, 2013

Dominating the Littorals with Unmanned Systems?

In the current edition of Proceedings, Peter von Bleichert contends that a new form of dedicated drone mothership, combined with unmanned surface, underwater, and air systems, can dominate in future littoral combat.  A few observations:
  • The author argues that "The littorals are too dangerous for the big expensive submarines and ships of the Navy and their crews, and they are far too dangerous for smaller manned vessels that lack comprehensive defensive and offensive systems."  There is truth the threat to surface ships in the littorals is greater than ever, with layer upon layer of anti-access threats available to state and non-state adversaries, including mines, fast attack craft swarms, and ground-launched anti-ship cruise missiles.  On the other hand, there are some missions that simply can't be performed by robotic systems, and likely will never will be.  Chief among these is the requirement to board and inspect vessels during maritime interdiction.
  • What would the littoral domination ship” (LDS) look like?  Von Bleichert mentions the Navy's new Mobile Landing Platform (MLP), which if configured properly, could have a rather sizeable flight deck for UAVs.  He's definitely onto something with the idea to use cheaper commercial hulls as a drone mothership.
  • The author has an interesting take on semi-submersible USVs.  This capability would certainly make the vessels lower profile, but the requirement to completely water-proof weapons systems such as guns and missile systems might add make this idea too complex and costly. idea.

Could the Navy's new Mobile Landing Platform become the basis for a future drone carrier?  (here, USNS Montford Point (T-MLP 1) moored pier side in San Diego during the ship's christening ceremony -U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro/Released)