U.S. Pentagon: Come Meet The Sea Hunter Unmanned Vessel

The U.S. Pentagon has christened the “Sea Hunter,” its new 130-foot, unmanned vessel that will be used to help the Navy search for underwater submarines, mines, and other obstacles.

Senior officials introduced the trimaran at a special presentation in Portland, Oregon.

According to The Washington Post, the $20 million Sea Hunter vessel was developed by Leidos under the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (D.A.R.P.A.) and its “Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel” program.

Sea Hunter can travel at up to 27 knots and navigate without human intervention through the most extreme water conditions, including Sea State 5. It is expected to be able to travel thousands of miles without requiring human-based navigation, thus allowing it to carry out autonomous missions for up to about a month. Sea Hunter also uses advanced software and hardware to give it “lookout” functionality for avoiding crashing into other vehicles or obstacles, and can be remotely operated in a manner similar to drones, the consumer version of which has grown tremendously in recent years.

Sea Hunter’s potential for remote maneuverability is being compared to that of drones, which continue to grow in popularity among consumers in the U.S. [Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images]
Perhaps most importantly, Sea Hunter can be deployed and operated in unison as a fleet to help improve maritime security with little or no risk to human staff.

And that capability alone is what security officials believe will make Sea Hunter one of its most reliable assets under the water.

“I am absolutely salivating to see what happens [when] this baby gets down to the fleet,” said U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Wok to Fox 12 Oregon, mirroring the sentiments of other government officials who are meeting the Sea Hunter with enthusiasm and calling it a dream years in the making.

“We will always have a man, or woman in the loop, asking okay, ‘What are you seeing? Okay take the shot.’ That’s how we operate,” continued Wok, who also notes that the agency has a lot of optimism regarding the Sea Hunter. “This is a fighting ship. I intend for it to go in harm’s way, buckle up, plug in, get nasty, let’s go. This is going to be a Navy unlike any Navy in history.”

US Navy Fighter Patch
The Sea Hunter could revolutionize the way that the U.S. Navy combats submarines, potentially even putting human lives at risk at the same time. [Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images]
While Sea Hunter has yet to be actually equipped with any weapons, D.A.R.P.A. officials did tell The Washington Post that future versions could potentially meet this demand for a fighting craft.

Prior to being put into this or any other use, however, the Sea Hunter will have to meet C.O.L.R.E.G.S., or International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, specifications.

Defense officials do believe, though, that the Sea Hunter will be more than adept at passing those tests.

The news follows the 2015 launch of a 42-foot Sea Hunter prototype, which successfully completed a self-guided trip between Gulfport and Pascagoula, Mississippi.

This particular version of Sea Hunter, however, was constructed in Oregon with early testing conducted in the Columbia River. It was built with the help of Portland’s Vigor Industrial.

And for Scott Littlefield, the program manager for D.A.R.P.A.’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel program, Sea Hunter’s origination in the city has made all the difference.

“Portland has great industrial abilities for ship building, especially for small things like this,” joked Littlefield. “This was a great place for [Sea Hunter] to get done.”

[Photo by PNA Rota/Getty Images]

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