Many naval shipwrecks are in deep water or in mud so nasty that even if in shallower depths, have visibility of about nil. Not so with the recently lost Helge Ingstad, which for now at least, is in the shallows of a crystal clear fjord in Norway at depths that enable small surface ROVs and scuba-equipped salvage work.
For those under a rock for the past month, HNoMS Helge Ingstad is a Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate of the Royal Norwegian Navy. On 8 November 2018, the frigate collided with the tanker Sola TS in Norwegian waters, was severely damaged in the collision and beached:
The cables didn’t hold and she slipped down the ledge where she rests today.
The Norwegian Navy this week released two videos from the wreck. One of them piloting the Blueye Pioneer underwater drone inside her hull, and another recovering Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launch canisters from her topside.
The NSM is a 13-foot-long, 900-pound anti-ship missile produced by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and it is being shopped by Raytheon in the U.S. to replace Harpoon on frigates and LCS vessels. The range is 100+ nm and it is optimized for use in so-called green or blue water. Nansen-class frigates tote eight of these. More on the NSM here.
Of note, Blueye is also a Norwegian company. More on the ROV, which only runs like $6K, here.
“The assessment at the moment is it was almost certainly non-state Yemen based actors firing a land-based missile or rocket at the vessel,” Major Tom Mobbs, head of intelligence and security with the European Union’s counter-piracy mission EU Navfor, told Reuters.
The Turkish flagged Ince Inebolu bulk carrier was damaged by an explosion on May 10, some 70 miles off the Red Sea port of Salif where it was due to deliver a 50,000-tonne cargo of Russian wheat. Likely culprits are the Houthis, who last month hit a Saudi oil tanker was off Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, suffering limited damage.
I give you, DARPA’s robot subchaser, Sea Hunter, testbed of the ACTUV program, which is now part of ONR.
DARPA has successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has officially transferred the technology demonstration vessel, christened Sea Hunter, to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). ONR will continue developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle—the first of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).
The handover marks the culmination of three years of collaboration between DARPA and ONR that started in September 2014. An April 2016 christening ceremony marked the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing conducted jointly with ONR. That same month, the vessel moved to San Diego, Calif., for open-water testing.
ONR plans to continue the aggressive schedule of at-sea tests to further develop ACTUV/MDUSV technologies, including automation of payload and sensor data processing, rapid development of new mission-specific autonomous behaviors, and exploring coordination of autonomous activities among multiple USVs. Pending the results of those tests, the MDUSV program could transition to U.S. Navy operations by 2018.
Complete with lots of dramatic royalty free muzak, the above video from Lockheed-Martin is actually pretty interesting if you take the time to digest it.
It shows “Vector Hawk,” a small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), on command from the little yellow submarine looking thing– “Marlin MK2” autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)– while a third vehicle, the “Submaran,” an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) developed by Ocean Aero (the sailboat looking thing), provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance.
As noted by LM:
The four-pound Vector Hawk can fly for 70-plus minutes, at line-of-sight ranges up to 15 kilometers. Operators can recover and re-launch the Vector Hawk in a matter of minutes (including changing the system’s battery). Vector Hawk is built on an open architecture to enable rapid technology insertion and payload integration.
Marlin MK2 is a battery powered, fully autonomous underwater vehicle that is 10 feet long with a 250 pound payload capacity, 18-24 hour endurance, depth rating of 1000 feet and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds. Its open architecture design and modularity allow new mission packages to be quickly integrated into Marlin to meet emerging customer needs.
As noted by Defense News:
The Houthi boat that attacked and hit a Saudi frigate Jan. 30 in the Red Sea, reported earlier as a suicide boat, was instead carried out by an unmanned, remote-controlled craft filled with explosives, the US Navy’s top officer in the Mideast said.
“Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind,” Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet and head of US Naval Forces Central Command, told Defense News in an interview here Saturday.
The attack on the frigate Al Madinah appears to be the first confirmed use of the weapon which, Donegan said, represents a wider threat than that posed by suicide boats and shows foreign interests are aiding the Houthis.
Donegin is concerned “first that it is in the hands of someone like the Houthis. That’s not an easy thing to develop. There have been many terrorist groups that have tried to develop that, it’s not something that was just invented by the Houthis. There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic.
“The second is the explosive boat piece — you don’t need suicide attackers to do a suicide-like attack. There are certain terrorists that do things and they get martyrs to go and do it. But there are many others that don’t want to martyr themselves in making attacks like that and that’s pretty much where the Houthis are. So it makes that kind of weaponry, which would normally take someone suicidal to use, now able to be used by someone who’s not going to martyr themselves.”
The unmanned boat was likely supplied by Iran, Donegan said.
I’ve talked a lot about the Navy’s Sea Hunter program and others, but how about this news ICYMI from the Pitcairn Islands– you know, that windswept group of four volcanic atolls in the Pacific inhabited mostly by descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them. Sparsely populated, the British Territory sees the occasional USCG/USN or RN ship pass through the area, but there is no enduring presence.
It seems they have hit on the idea of protecting their huge EEZ (322,000 sq. mile, or about the size of Texas and Montana combined!) by unmanned submersible operated by Satellite Applications Catapult and the Pew Charitable Trusts at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Harwell, Oxfordshire.
Apparently the preserve is home to at least 1,249 species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish, as well as some of the most near-pristine ocean habitat on Earth, and the 54 inhabitants of the Pitcairnians– who depend on the sea for survival– can’t stop trans-global poachers all by themselves.
The drone, made by US firm Liquid Robotics, will be directed by staff at the satellite watch room which is monitoring fishing vessels. The craft is equipped with a camera that can take snaps of fishing vessels that are in restricted areas, and satellite technology that can pinpoint their location. The unmanned craft starting patrolling late last month.
The Liquid Robotics drone, called a Wave Glider, is a two-part craft made up of an instrument-bearing boat that floats on the ocean surface that is tethered to a submersible. The craft uses the differential motion between the sea surface and the region the submersible traverses to propel itself.
The self-propelling propulsion system means the Wave Glider can stay at sea for months at a time.
Just unveiled a few weeks ago, the 132-foot USV which aims to be the Navy’s newest 21st Century expendable sub-chaser has been formally christened.
Part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV Pronounced “Active,” ) program, in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Sea Hunter as she is now know, is a game changer.
“This is an inflection point,” Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Work said in an interview, adding he hoped such ships might find a place in the Western Pacific in as few as five years. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship.”
Sea Hunter will now move to San Diego for a two year pilot program to R&D just what the platform can do and what sensor package works best.
The ship’s projected $20 million all-up price tag and its $15,000 to $20,000 daily operating cost make it relatively inexpensive to operate. For comparison, a single Littoral Combat Ship runs $432 million (at least LCS-6 did) to build and run about $220K a day to operate– but of course that is a moving target.
Still, its easy to see where a flotilla of Sea Hunters could provide a lot of ASW coverage on the cheap and even if mines or torpedoes take half of them out, it’s a hit to the treasury and not incoming C-17s to Dover with waiting honor guards.
And with that in mind, check out this super sweet walk-through/construction video to see just how simple this craft is.