This Robotic Ship Could Become a Marine’s Lifeline
The Sea Hunter is a fully robotic ship, which makes it perfect for high-risk missions at sea.
The U.S. Navy’s ambitious push into unmanned ships may have a new mission: ferrying critically-needed supplies through hostile waters.
The Navy believes its new Sea Hunter unmanned ship, and others like it, could be used to transport supplies to small groups of ground forces trapped behind enemy lines or operating over a wide area. The unmanned ship would get the job done in situations where ships risk being intercepted by enemy forces.
One of the formative moments in U.S. military history was the Guadalcanal campaign in the Pacific Theater of World War II. After landing an invasion force of U.S. Marines the Navy withdrew, worried that a superior Japanese force lurked nearby. Although the Navy eventually returned, the incident is still a sore point between the Navy and Marine Corps. It also strengthened the ethos that the U.S. military doesn’t abandon the living (or the dead) on the battlefield.
Now, as the U.S. Military considers the possibility of fighting a new air-land-sea campaign in the Pacific against China or the Baltic Sea against Russia, the Navy is examining how it would continue to resupply friendly forces in a similar situation. The service must also grapple with the fact that, nearly 80 years later, war at sea is more deadly than ever before, with long range drones equipped with missiles, satellite surveillance, and supersonic anti-ship missiles.
That’s where the Navy’s new 132-foot long, 140 ton Sea Hunter ship could come in. Autonomous and sailing without a human crew, Sea Hunter—or a ship like it—would be packed with food, water, ammunition and medical supplies and sent to assist waiting Marines. Sea Hunter, the first of its kind, recently completed an unmanned voyage from the West Coast to Hawaii.
According to Military.com, the Navy thinks these ships could be ideal for running supplies to cut-off ground forces. Small and low profile, they wouldn’t stick out as much as an amphibious assault ship many times larger. Unmanned, there are no human lives to risk and the Navy could afford to send them on dicier, higher risk missions without the possibility of losing sailors.
The reality of warfare is that a repeat of the Guadalcanal situation—even on a smaller scale—is all but inevitable. In the ebb and flow of combat, Marines or Army forces could seize islands, or parts of islands, and then become cut off from resupply. These unmanned ships could help keep ground forces alive, delivering critical supplies to islands barely capable of supporting life.