Are Unmanned Subs The U.S. Navy's Future? Times: The Navy's Future Fleet May Include Submarines Without Sailors

The U.S. naval fleet of the future may one day include submarines without a sailor from bow to stern that prowl the depths of the ocean, navigating mine-infested waters to gather intelligence or even clandestinely drop explosives.

The military views autonomous vehicles as a way to accomplish missions deemed too risky, mundane or expensive for human crews. While aerial drones have largely been tasked with these types of duties for more than a decade, the Navy is now increasingly funding robotic ships and undersea drones to complement the work done by its crewed vessels.

Last month, Boeing Co. beat out rival Lockheed Martin Corp. for a $46.7-million Navy contract modification to build an Orca undersea drone. Boeing had previously won a contract to build four of the Orca drones, bringing the total contract value for the five to $274.4 million. A large chunk of work will be done at the aerospace giant's Huntington Beach facility, and the drones are expected to be completed by 2022.

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WNU Editor: It took years of research and development for aerial drones to be as important as they are today. The same is going to happen with unnamed naval vessels (including subs). We are at the beginning of the unnamed naval era, and it is going to take just as long (if not longer) for them to become as standard as today's aerial drone fleet are.

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