The US Navy tempers its ambitions for an autonomous fleet

In an article published at the end of December on the War on the Rock website, the authors, including an active offer from the US Navy, pointed to the risk of transferring the maintenance load on board ships without a crew, to increased maintenance at the quay, potentially generating significant additional costs, poor availability, and possible saturation of naval maintenance infrastructure due to overcrowding of dockside buildings. The fact is, many naval officers who have served on board ships doubt that current technology can effectively provide autonomous ships with reliability at sea compatible with operational requirements. And if naval drones, whether surface, submarine or aerial, are unanimous today, the notion of autonomous combat ship is still widely debated.

However, the US Navy displayed very high ambitions in this area, and the results obtained by its two Sea Hunter and SeaHawk prototypes, both during autonomous transit from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast (except for the passage of the Panamá), and the significant progress made during the UxS IBP exercise last April, had gave wings to American planners, which planned to launch pre-series production of around ten autonomous ships of this type, partly spurred by the rapid increase in the size of the Chinese fleet in recent years. Was it because of the questions raised by the War on the Rock article, or a deep feeling of déjà vu with an excitement that is reminiscent of that of the LCS, Zumwalt and other Sea WolfMore Congress has decided to severely temporize the ambitions of the US Navy in this area.

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During the UxS IBP exercise, the US Navy's autonomous Sea Hunter and Seahawk ships demonstrated their ability to integrate into an operational naval system, but the endurance and reliability have yet to be demonstrated. the sea of ​​these technologies

For American legislators, there is indeed no question of taking credits earmarked for traditional shipbuilding, as the US Navy hoped, to finance new autonomous ships, even though many questions remain unanswered as to the reliability, effectiveness and viability of this approach. The latter therefore demanded that the US Navy remove, within 5 years, all technological and doctrinal uncertainties on this subject, before considering financing the construction of a fleet of this type. And the US Navy to announce that indeed, it was now necessary to demonstrate the relevance and reliability of these technological blocks, before committing to their operational integration.

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