Monday, June 1, 2015

Ghost Fleet & Future Unmanned Naval Warfare

Well known authors and national security analysts Peter W. Singer and August Cole have together launched their inaugural novel, Ghost Fleet. The book contains all the components one would expect from a high tech future-war thriller: major power conflict, cyber militias, and biotech-enhanced warriors, to name a few highlights. And drones...lots of them.  Unmanned naval systems in particular, play key roles throughout the book's action sequences. Some of the unmanned systems are already deployed, some are currently in development, and a few exist only in the authors' minds, but all appear to be technically feasible at some point in the near future.

A Littoral Combat Ship features prominently early in the plot. The LCS serves as a mothership for the Fire Scout UAVs and a REMUS AUV which the crew creatively uses as an offensive weapon. An embarked SAFFiR robot helps LCS sailors with damage control during a combat scene.

Several platforms in use today are adapted for new missions by the book's various combatants. A Wave Glider serves as a clandestine delivery vehicle, while a commercial Versatrax 300 sewer survey robot becomes an improvised subterranean explosive device. A Sea Avenger is cleverly transformed into a communications relay to maintain an afloat task force's communications security.

As to future vehicles, the Remora is a surveillance UUV dropped by a Navy P-8 aircraft.  Three autonomous armed submarine hunting surface vessels interestingly designated as USS Mako, USS Bullshark, and USS Tigershark resemble the trimaran ACTUV "Sea Hunter" prototype in development with today's US Navy.  Finally, versatile amphibious robotic lobster affectionately named Butter is used by Navy SEALs to wreak havoc on the enemy.

The book's antagonist regime, known as the Directorate, also operates some uniquely devastating systems.  The Pigeon is a small, vertically launched surveillance and jamming drone. The electric V1000 UAV is based on commercial quadrotors, and capable of firing both air to ground micro-rockets and supersonic air-to-air missiles.

Clearly, the author's have thoroughly researched the book's technology and have been kind enough to include an extensive list of links and references in the endnotes. Unmanned systems enthusiasts may want to buy Ghost Fleet just to survey the interesting range of drones, but they'll read it for the compelling storyline.

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