Nice subtitle there - "descent of the machines"
'ere, 'aff one on us :)
An Australian company has developed a fleet of underwater drones capable of swarming the seas. Aquabotix’s Swarmdiver drone can, according to the company, “function as a single coordinated swarm with one human operator,” diving below the sea’s surface “to collect valuable intelligence”. “Until today, there were simply no …
more or less exclusively focused on detecting submarines
Mine hunting too. Many years ago I was a contractor at Ferranti, just before they went tits-up as a result of a massive fraud. Simulating sea-bed reflections for a Type 2093 sonar, also graphics for the camera on a ROV ("yellow submarine"). Massive (for those days) Silicon Graphics Onyx / R4400.
That's the major problem with underwater drones, it's hard to think of any method of getting data to the surface/another vehicle fast enough to make them useful as an off board sensor. Sonobouys are probably the closest thing to the concept and they have an antenna on the surface for that exact reason, which doesn't show a lot of progress in the last 70 years.
Sea-drones will be bad news for ballistic missile subs. There will be three kinds at least, all of them shining a light, as it were, into the depths where boomers used to hide so well.
The first will be cheap-as-chips equivalents of sonobouys, doing little more than passively listening and reporting home to base. Mass produced by the millions, lurking both above and below the thermocline and drawing very little power. Research on self-sustaining energy for these things (floating a small solar mat for a trickle charge; using temperature gradients to make thermocouple-type electricity; both exploiting the need to surface an antenna) may see them functioning autonomously for months or even years.
More advanced will be the shorter-lived kind with a bit more Artificial Idiot, which use depth-keeping, currents and quiet propulsion to gradually creep into missions zones and hot spots, with the ability to punch out the occasional active pulse on instruction: area denial over potentially thousands of square miles.
The third will be more like a complete functioning HK sub (or perhaps it's better visualised as a highly automatic torpedo): no crew, but a single warhead. Given an acoustic signature library and approximate search area, it uses data aggregated from the first two to creep up to an idling boomer and go Bang! on the prop. Needing no crew and low power it can be all about sneaking around quietly at a few knots, waiting to burst the enemy's shaft seals. With IFF and mission-time limiting safeguards,a few hundred of these would create havoc for an enemy's fleet. An uncrewed drone the size of a motorcycle will make less noise than even the quietest submarines—and a single active ping is all it takes to bring the hounds running.
It's a classic example of the way in which many relatively simple devices can use swarming behaviour, cooperation and data integration as a force multiplier. Guided by good internal software and the occasinal nudge using LW encyrpted radio from HQ ... one drone by itself, pretty useless: but think how many you could afford for the price of a single ASW helicopter .... the possibilities are almost endless, and they spell bad times for ballistic missile submarines. (Imagine the old CAPTOR concept using modern tech.)
Pessimistic, perhaps, but I suspect the new Trident will be obsolete before it's launched.
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