The US Navy has asked Washington for $400m to build two large USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) as part of a five-year strategy to eventually build a fleet of 10 at a total cost of $2.7 billion.
It follows the US Navy’s recent testing a new large USV when its 132ft vessel Sea Hunter sailed from California to Hawaii and back, with no-one aboard.
The latest budget requests include an element to fund new flotillas of underwater drones.
“We expect to see the development of large USVs to pick up quickly over the next year,” says James Geurts, the US Navy's assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition.
"USVs will be flexible and mobile – so you're going to see an acceleration of this strategy versus a traditional shipbuilding program.
“From now on, it’s going to be more about what you want to strap onto a ship – and a lot less about the ship’s hull form."