Unmanned ships are playing a prominent role in this year’s US Navy Pacific Rim exercise. This year, more than 30 experiments are planned at RIMPAC using unmanned platforms from the United States and partner countries, including recent innovations such as crewless teamwork.
“Incorporating these overlapping, unmanned technologies, in a distributed combat position, during live-fire exercises perfectly helps advance our concept of operations as well as informs us of an understanding of which technologies are more combat capable,” said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike. Gilday during a visit to maneuvers that lasted for a month.
RIMPAC 2022 drew in twenty-six nations, thirty warships, and 25,000 personnel—and four U.S. Navy ships. The former Overlord crew boats Nomad and Ranger are on hand, repainted in Misty Gray, as well as the DARPA trimarans Sea Hunter and Seahawk. The four operate together under one unit, operating under the joint supervision of the Pacific Fleet’s 1st Surface Development Squadron and the NAVSEA Program Office for Unmanned Maritime Systems, PMS-406.
The team says these prototypes work in tandem with manned ships, carry payloads, provide intelligence and gather data to help figure out how they work in the larger fleet.
“The integration of autonomous USVs with manned fighters will give fleet commanders the much-needed improvements to maritime domain awareness, thereby increasing decision speed and lethality in surface warfare,” said Capt. Scott Searles, PMS 406 program manager.
Unmanned systems have participated in exercises before, but the participation of four different ocean-going ships operating independently or by manned teams is unprecedented for the US Navy.
“We need to continue to position ourselves in a position where we can expand and make truly unmanned assets above and above sea level an important part of the fleet,” Admiral Gilday said. “It is no longer a luxury. It is a necessity if we are to operate in a distributed manner.”