Pentagon documents show that Americans are creating an analogue of the Russian “Poseidon” far not from the zero.
The U.S. Navy seeks to strengthen its power through submarine drones, which include super large drones. This was reported by the overseas publication National Defense, referring not to anonymous insiders, as is often the case in such cases, but to a specific captain Pete Small, director of the program for the development of unmanned naval systems of the Navy.
In this regard, a few words should be said about the publication itself. In the United States, National Defense magazine is known as a portal that provides “authoritative, impartial coverage of business and technology trends in defense and national security.” Even the fact that ND is supported by the money of the American National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA – author) says a lot. The fact is that NDIA lobbyists enter the high offices of the White House and the Pentagon.
In a word, ND’s information about large unmanned naval systems being developed in the USA deserves the most serious attention and requires an objective expert assessment. In addition, such publications are a kind of signal to potential opponents – the rattling of weapons.
So, Pete Small told a “reputable source of military news” that the US Navy has signed a contract with Boeing to build 5 ultra-large prototypes of UUV Orca. He recalled that initially the deal was designed for four “Orca,” but because of great interest and good prospects, the Pentagon decided to make one more. Thus, we can talk about the small-scale production of new combat systems.
What kind of beast is the American Killer Whale? There is practically no objective information about the Orca submarine. It is understandable why. In particular, the Global Security website, which claims to be omniscient, writes about this project as a joint work of the leading US defense corporations Boeing and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), which a couple of years ago already successfully tested the 15-meter deep-sea Echo Voyager submarine. Now we are talking about the development of this model to the level of a full-fledged combat unit operating under the control of artificial intelligence, Global Security suggests.
What is curious: the dimensions of the Echo Voyager and the Russian unmanned submarine Poseidon are identical, which indicates the similarity of design ideologies. True, our “Status-6” (the project name of “Poseidon”) was originally developed as a fully automatic “killer” of the coastal military and civilian infrastructure of a potential enemy, while the prototype of the American “Killer Whale” was an explorer of the sea day as an underwater drone.
And although the technical details of the Echo Voyager modification were not disclosed to the military level, Global Security, however, cited information that the Killer Whale received a 9-cubic-meter payload bay, which can accommodate drones, missiles and even atomic charges with a length of just over 3 meters and a diameter of up to 1.6 meters. However, if necessary, “Killer Whale” can carry a payload outside the hull, for example, nuclear torpedoes that do not fit in the cargo hold. This means that the functionality of the new submarine robot has been significantly expanded: from reconnaissance expeditions to the delivery of ammunition.
As for the power plant, it is most likely taken from Echo Voyager and, of course, improved. As you know, Boeing Corporation installed a closed-cycle diesel-electric installation on its research drone. One can only guess how far UUV Orca can actually swim under water, since the Pentagon intentionally distorts the characteristics of its new products. At the same time, the Global Security website is convinced that the Boeing and HII developers have advanced in this regard, otherwise the US Navy simply was not interested in this development.
We also note one more point that Small’s colleague, John Moses, manager of the development of lithium-ion batteries for the US Navy, stopped at. He bluntly said that batteries have become a stumbling block and problem number 1: “It is difficult to find a safe version of a battery with a sufficient power density that can be used on unmanned underwater vehicles.” And without them, one cannot count on long secretive transitions. If this is not done, then the Chinese or Russians will sooner or later discover the “Orca” and board it.
Given that the “Orca” goes completely diving from naval bases, it can be assumed that 3,000 km from the island of Guam, where the US Navy is based, to the coast of China and back, this underwater vehicle still needs to overcome. In any case, such an assumption suggests itself, since it is China today that is confidently disputing the leadership of the Americans in the South China Sea, which has become an apple of discord between the two first economies of the world.
But in order to understand how advanced the project is in all respects, it is necessary to understand, first of all, its financial side. This is where you can draw something for a preliminary analysis. With rare exceptions, cheap is never good, say the wise Americans.
About the money for “Orca” the same captain Small told National Defense. He said that the signed contract was estimated by the US defense department at $ 274 million for five Orca, that is, slightly less than $ 55 million for the device.
Meanwhile, in 2017, the Pentagon, ordering a single prototype of UUV Orca (contract N00024-17-C-6307), paid the developers $ 42 million. But after in March 2018 Washington officially included “Status-6” in the nuclear triad Russia, the project price has already been raised to $ 92.6 million (budget request FY ’19). Then, recall, Vladimir Putin in his message to the Federal Assembly said: “Unmanned underwater vehicles capable of moving at great depths and intercontinental range at speeds multiple times faster than submarines, the most advanced torpedoes and all types of surface ships have been developed in Russia.”
Soon after the speech of Russian president, the Americans determined the total level of labor costs for the implementation of the contract for the creation of their unmanned doomsday submarine. According to a specialized audit, this will require 300,000 man-hours of direct labor, including the labor costs of subcontractors. In reality, this is an insignificant engineering and technological effort to create such a complex equipment. Roughly speaking, 100 people in one year had to not only design, but also assemble an extra large underwater drone.
All this gives reason to think that something similar the Americans had already done or … stole. Otherwise, it took an order of magnitude more effort. However, Boeing and HII could simply buy ready-made civilian solutions, including from the Chinese, combining them into one.
Be that as it may, but the technologies underlying the “Orca” will be used in the development of another underwater automatic platform called Snakehead. In fact, there is a duplication of systems and mechanisms. The only difference is that the “Snake Head”, like the Russian Doomsday system – “Poseidon”, will be transported to the launch site only by specially converted submarines.
According to Captain Small, the first “Snake Head” will begin to be tested in a year with plans for the pilot production of small batches in 2022. The director of the US Navy’s unmanned marine systems development program is confident that both Killer Whale and Snake Head systems will be brought to mind in the near future, which will again allow Americans to feel more confident in the ocean.
Thus, the world is entering a new era of underwater confrontation, in which not people will fight among themselves, but “artificial intellects” of the countries participating in the arms race.