A Giant Submersible Drone

DARPA will begin testing on the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) in San Diego early next year. ACTUV is a 132-foot, 140-ton unmanned submarine-hunting ocean drone designed to autonomously track stealth submarines from the surface.

Currently it is still under construction, at 90 percent completion, on the Oregon coast. DARPA says that ACTUV will be significantly cheaper than a naval destroyer, costing $15,000 per day to operate compared to a destroyer’s $700,000 per day operational cost.

Autonomous Weapons

The ACTUV’s main function will be to trail submarines automatically traverse its surroundings and trail submarines. Currently DARPA seems to be leaving open the possibility of weaponizing the vehicle in the future. Although DARPA is not explicitly saying that the ACTUV is a weapon, it will be able to carry a relatively large payload and have independently deploying systems. The discretion likely stems from the Pentagon’s autonomous weapons directive that prohibits the use of lethal and semi-lethal force by autonomous machines.

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