Sinking Subs by Remote Control

Meet the New Awesome from our Israeli friends:

An Israeli firm recently revealed that it had developed a USV (unmanned surface vessel) system that can carry out ASW (anti-submarine warfare) as well as finding and destroying bottom mines. Called Seagull, each system consists of two USVs and a base station (on land or a manned ship) for the handful of people needed to operate Seagull. One of the Seagull USVs carries several types of sensors (sonars and others) while the other UAV carries a minisub (for getting a closer look at bottom mines) and wire guided torpedoes (for destroying subs or bottom mines). Each USV is 12 meters (39 feet) long, has a top speed of 57 kilometers an hour, a payload of 2.5 tons and can stay at sea for up to four days at a time. The Seagull USVs can operate up to a hundred kilometers from its base station. Each Seagull system will cost about $30 million but can do the work of a frigate or corvette costing ten times as much.

At 39 feet long each and with minimal command crew requirements, you could “base” several Seagulls on our Arleigh Burke-class destroyers — effectively turning each individual ship into an entire sub-hunting task force.

An aircraft carrier projects a “bubble” of protective cover into the air by launching armed aircraft. That bubble extends much further, and reacts much faster, than even the biggest and most powerful battleship guns. A Burke acting as a floating Seagull base would project a similar bubble undersea — with the added benefit of putting no extra lives at risk.

We’re spending billions on “littoral combat ships” with the ability, it is hoped, to hunt quiet enemy diesel subs hiding close to shore. But both the Freedom-class and Independence-class LCS ships are way over budget and of dubious combat abilities. For far less, we could upgrade our existing fleet of 60 or so Burkes with the ability to send in the drones close to shore, while remaining up to 60 miles away under the protection of friendly naval air power.

I don’t think it’s possible to buy too many of these things from the Israelis.