According to the Guardian, The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is attempting to develop unmanned maritime drones that would be used for anti-submarine warfare and possible missile attacks on enemy ships.
A senior defence official stated: “The possibilities of these new drone technologies is endless”.
Some of the tasks that could be accomplished with these drones are: anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-ship missile defence, counter-piracy operations and support to future submarine operations.
A fleet of Royal Navy unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) is already being used in the Gulf to help prevent the enemies laying mines in important sea lanes.
Devices similar to these could be used to deal with pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia.
Documents published by the MoD state that: “Innovation in maritime technology, including unmanned systems, will make it possible for UK armed forces to continue to use the sea with security and persistence”.
“A range of unmanned systems including UUVs, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) may be used to support these maritime tasks”.
Former first sea lord and security minister Admiral Lord West stated: “The areas where I see potential are in surveillance and reconnaissance, and for such things as mine-hunting and clearance of mines, without the enemy knowing what we are doing.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “Exploring innovation in maritime defence is part of the work we do to exploit the latest technology and ensure the Royal Navy is best equipped to meet future requirements. We are considering options for how we can use unmanned systems to support the vast range of future naval capabilities that include Type 45 destroyers, global combat ships, Astute class submarines and the two Queen Elizabeth class carriers that together with Lightning II jets will provide world-leading carrier strike from 2020.”
The Royal Navy has 16 UUVs, based at Whale Island, off Portsmouth. The vessels are used for counter-marine operations, and have been used extensively in the Gulf in preparation for any potential conflict.
The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems, an MoD document published last year, says that the legal and ethical issues are not yet resolved.
Subsea World News Staff , August 03, 2012; Image: idexuae