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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2018 12:38 pm 
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In the spirit of Monty Python’s “And now for something completely different,” I would like to propose a concept for an autonomous surface combatant. Perhaps it warrants a scratch-built model when I’m finished with FFG-63.

There have been unmanned armed combat aircraft for years now, though they are certainly not autonomous. The 2015 novel Ghost Fleet by P. W. Singer and August Cole and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, brings out a number of fascinating ideas about peer warfare in the near future, and one that caught my mind was the use of small, ocean-going autonomous combat ships. In the novel they augment cruisers and destroyers as part of the screen for an Expeditionary Strike Group in a high-threat area.

I’m laying out my ideas on that the autonomous ships will be tasked to do, leading to what they need to look like, and thus determine what the model needs to look like. Your comments and inputs are always welcome.

An autonomous combat platform concept only works in open-ocean areas declared internationally as combat zones via Notice to Mariners and Notice to Airmen. This clears the hurdle of robotic warfare in populated areas; civilians are expected to remain clear. Those who ignore the notices do so at their own risk. Mission tasks would be:
• Escort/picket for strike group and sea base, in line with use of destroyer pickets at Okinawa during 1945.
• Recovery of downed aircrews and crews of sunken ships in denied areas.
• Insertion and extraction of special operations teams when other means are not available, and the risk warrants its use.
These ships would be expendable compared to the more traditional, crewed ships.
Excluded missions are those that require people to execute:
• Anything involving the launch and recovery of helicopters
• Vessel boarding, search and seizure
• Peacetime engagement with other nations and navies.

The autonomous combatant would be intended to operate with initial instructions, with updates and reporting back occurring when communications permit, but it can function within its role if the networks are cut and it still has weapons remaining. Condition-based engagement logic in its artificial intelligence would be based on a designated haven for friendly forces. This haven could be fixed or moving.
1. Offensive. All contacts above, on, or below the surface in the designated combat zone, but outside friendly havens, will be attacked.
2. Defensive. All incoming threats to the friendly haven, and platforms that launched them from within the designated combat zone, will be attacked.
3. Defensive. All incoming threats to the friendly haven will be attacked. Contacts not actually attacking the haven will not be engaged.
4. Pre-hostilities. Weapons tight. Threats potentially threating the friendly haven will be tracked, prioritized, and reported.
5. Peacetime, or in friendly/populated areas. Weapon systems are inactive.

Recognizing the limits of artificial intelligence and the need to minimize the risks of blue on blue engagements, this engagement logic won't allow engaging threats that have already penetrated the safe haven. So this drives the concept to a picket function at the edges of the haven, rather than part of an inner screen. The assigned engagement condition can be changed by the tactical commander.

Now that I know what the autonomous combatant should do, I need to decide what ship characteristics will be necessary to make the missions possible.
1. I need the sensors, computers, and weapons of a frigate. The hull needs to be deep enough to support a vertical launching system for anti-air, anti-ship, and anti-submarine weapons. I need launchers for expendable countermeasures. Since there will be no helicopter, some sonobuoys can also be launched over the side.
2. I need to provide the power to operate the weapon and command systems and provide the speed needed to work with a strike group.
3. I need to provide enough fuel to match the transit and operations of the group it supports. Some underway refueling will be needed for transit and sustained operations, and that can be provided by putting some sailors aboard by helo or small boat from the refueling ship.
4. The ship needs to deploy with a full weapons load onboard. Reloads for sonobuoys, countermeasures, and the close-in gun/missiles can be lowered by helo sling loads and loaded by an augmented refueling crew. Reloading missiles into the vertical launch system will require bringing the ship alongside a tender at the seabase. That would also be an opportunity for a support crew to perform necessary repairs.
5. There needs to be sufficient reliability and redundancy in the engineering and combat systems, to continue in the face of some failures that would be corrected underway by a crew on a conventional ship.
6. The ship needs to keep the seas well enough to operate its sensors and weapons in the same weather conditions as the group it supports.
7. While there is no permanent crew, there will be limited support to people out of the weather when carrying special operators, recovered survivors, and even engineers during sea trials. That would include perhaps a small bunk room, stored food and fresh water, toilet facilities, and medical supplies.

So in my mind, that all adds up to a ship the size of a World War II destroyer, in the range of 300-350 feet overall length. I’m inclined to use a trimaran hull form for my model, just because it will look neat.


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Last edited by MPERRY on Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2018 11:38 am 
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There is an interesting short story about autonomous warships by August Cole, co-author of Ghost Fleet. It is located at a website called The Art of the Future, a project of the Atlantic Council. I recommend reading the story, and looking through the rest of the site. The story is at the following web link:
http://artoffuturewarfare.org/2017/11/operation-candlemaker/

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PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2018 6:06 pm 
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What about Asimov's 3 laws of robotics?

https://www.auburn.edu/~vestmon/robotics.html

Right out the window! :dead:
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PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2018 7:14 pm 
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don't need it if they use "IFF".


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PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2018 7:21 pm 
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..


Last edited by carr on Wed Jul 11, 2018 12:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2018 10:34 am 
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In Asimov's time there was no malevolent hacking! If a drone can be hacked (and these days ANYTHING can be hacked!) any robotic device can also be hacked, and either disabled, or directed against it's original owners. Sure, it's Sci-Fi (in the 40's - 50's), but robotics are now a fact, and hacking can cancel the robot laws. :Mad_6:
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2019 11:03 am 
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I haven't written anything about this idea for almost 11 months but I think about it occasionally. Then this week I saw an article in Defense News.

"A classified Pentagon maritime drone program is about to get its moment in the sun" 14 March 2019.
"WASHINGTON – A project birthed in the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office is getting some serious buy-in from the U.S. Navy, and could yield the world’s first large-scale armed unmanned warship. The Navy raised eyebrows in its budget rollout Tuesday when it requested $400 million for two large unmanned surface vessels to be purchased in 2020, with 10 total to be purchased across the five-year projection known as the future year defense program. But it was not immediately clear what exactly the Navy was buying two of, since no program of record exists for a large unmanned surface vessel (or LUSV).
Navy officials now say the request is an outgrowth of SCO’s Project Overlord, which first surfaced in 2017 with a draft solicitation outlining a program that would take existing autonomy technologies and integrate them into large and medium unmanned surface vessels with some heady ambitions: an autonomous ship capable of carrying up to 40 tons of payloads, and operate in up to sea-state five independently for 90 days without a crew for maintenance, while following all rules of navigation and obstacle avoidance.
... The draft lays out a two-phase plan that starts with a 12-month phase I, which asks industry to demonstrate a vehicle that could meet the requirements laid out in the draft, including a range of 4,500 nautical miles, “capable of operating in at least Sea State 5, with at least 80,000 lbs. of payload capacity and 75 kW of 450V, 60 Hz, three-phase AC power reserved for payloads.
... They are 200 to 300-foot, 2,000 ton [hulls],” said Rear Adm. Randy Crites. “I’m not sure what the final hull form will be, that’s what we’re using today in terms of what the ‘ghost fleet’ buy is. But I don’t think we know yet exactly what the hull form will be.”
https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2019/03/14/a-classified-pentagon-maritime-drone-program-is-about-to-get-its-moment-in-the-sun/

This sounds like a couple prototypes to experiment with the technology and develop a concept of operations. So the production autonomous frigates would be larger. Perhaps it's time to start sketching some ideas for a model. I'm thinking of the old concept of a razee, where a wooden warship was cut down, e.g., a 3-decker cut down to a 2-decker, or a 2-decker cut down to a large frigate. By eliminating the accomodation spaces, a Frigate could have a deck eliminated from the superstructure, and perhaps the remaining superstructure integrated into the hull to limit the radar cross section. I need to maintain a useful height above the waterline for the radar arrays. That's about 50 feet to the center of the forward SPY-1 array on the Arleigh Burke DDGs, according to images found online.
A reasonable weapons load would be 48 VLS cells plus a light gun mount or two.
No need for the outrageous hull/power compromises of the LCS since the speed would be consistent with other frigates/destroyers and a conventional displacement hull will do.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2019 4:15 pm 
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MPERRY wrote:
I haven't written anything about this idea for almost 11 months but I think about it occasionally. Then this week I saw an article in Defense News.


The same article was posted on this thread below in the History and Technology section:

US Navy planning to build unmanned drone warship fleet

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