Unmanned submarine fleet. China creates a robotic submarine
A few days ago, it became known from the publications of the Chinese press that the PRC defense industry was developing promising underwater unmanned aerial vehicles capable of solving various combat and auxiliary tasks. The appearance of such products is expected to be able to radically change the situation in the oceans. The existence of the most interesting and yet secret project to the general public was reported by the Hong Kong edition of the South China Morning Post.
The July 22 edition of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) published an article by Stephen Chen entitled “China military develops robotic submarines to launch a new era of sea power” (“The Chinese military are creating a robotic submarine to launch a new era of sea power”). The subtitle of the material noted that unmanned submarines of the new type will appear in the twenties and will be able to increase the potential of the Chinese Navy in strategically significant areas, such as the South China Sea.
It is alleged that information on a promising project was obtained from Chinese scientists involved in the development of artificial intelligence systems. According to their data, the PRC is developing fairly large "smart" unmanned submarines, which at the same time should differ in low cost. Such equipment will be able to carry out patrols in various areas and solve a wide range of tasks. They will be able to explore, carry out mining and even attack enemy targets.
According to SCMP, the deployment of new submarines will start at the beginning of the next decade. They are not intended to completely replace ships with crews on board and have other purposes. First of all, underwater Drones needed to change the strategic situation at sea. They will be the greatest challenge. fleets the planet. First of all, they have to confront the US Navy in the western Pacific and in the seas of this region.
The bold project is part of a larger ambitious program, through which Beijing intends to increase the combat capability of its fleet. One of the ways to increase the potential of the Navy is to use systems with artificial intelligence. Not so long ago, the world's largest complex for testing UAVs was built in Zhuhai. It is known about the development of elements of artificial intelligence intended for integration into combat information and control systems of submarines. The latter will allow submarine commanders to process incoming information faster and make more accurate decisions.
SCMP sources believe that underwater drones will be able to work with ground or airborne automated systems. In this case, they will be able to coordinate their actions and more effectively solve the tasks.
Prospective submarines will work independently and without people on board. They will be able to go to sea, solve assigned tasks and return to the base. Periodically, data will be exchanged with the operator, but the bulk of the tasks will be solved offline. However, all the features of the technology will not be used immediately. The first combat services will be associated with the implementation of relatively simple tasks. In addition, automation will not be able to completely replace the person. For example, the decision to apply weapons will still take man.
The current underwater drones, for the most part, are not very large, and therefore need a larger carrier vessel. Sources SCMP argue that a promising sample of underwater technology will be a real giant in comparison with them. For their operation, you may need a full dock and appropriate equipment. At the same time on board the unmanned submarine can be placed a large cargo compartment for the target load, weapons, etc.
Boats will be equipped with diesel-electric or other power plant. Designers plan to provide the ability to work autonomously for several months.
Artificial intelligence for new drones will have to solve a wide range of diverse tasks. In particular, he will have to carry out proper navigation in difficult conditions of the open sea. It must process incoming data on natural conditions and conditions, according to which it will change course and depth, bypassing difficult areas and avoiding detection. Artificial intelligence will have to find the best route to the specified goal.
With the help of unmanned submarines, it is planned to carry out reconnaissance, install minefields, or arrange ambushes on enemy ships. If necessary, they will be able to work together with ships and submarines, carrying out reconnaissance in their interests or distracting the attention of the enemy. In certain situations, a drone can even sacrifice itself and destroy a priority surface or underwater target.
The South China Morning Post publication contacted Lin Yang, director of marine engineering technology at the Shenyang Automation Institute, who confirmed the development of a new technology. According to him, in China, work is actually underway to create a series of super-large underwater unmanned vehicles.
The publication notes that Lin Yang and his colleagues have already managed to develop several samples of special equipment for the PLA naval forces. This team previously presented the first Chinese project of an underwater drone capable of diving to a depth of 6 km. Now Lin Yang is in charge of the secret 912 project. The goal of this project is to create a new generation of underwater robotic systems. It is planned to complete their creation in 2021, by the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party.
The head of a promising project noted that a super-large underwater vehicle of the new type is being created as a response to American work in this area. However, he refused to give any technical details of the Chinese project, citing the importance of this information. However, he did not rule out that such data will be announced later.
SCMP recalls that last year the US Department of Defense signed two contracts for the creation and testing of promising underwater drone heavy class. According to the results of comparing two samples, the military are going to choose the most successful one. The first project, called Orca, was proposed by Lockheed Martin. The company Boeing, in turn, creates a new model based on the well-known submarine Echo Voyager.
Orca submarine will be able to work in a given area, if necessary, contacting the base. After completing the task or dropping the payload, the drone will have to go back. According to official data of Lockheed Martin, a key feature of the project is the ability to perform all missions with control or support from the base. At the same time, personnel working with a submarine are not exposed to any risks. The company has not yet disclosed the technical data of the prospective sample.
A similar project from Boeing is based on a commercial drone type Echo Voyager. The latter provided for the construction of a submarine with a displacement of 50 and a length of about 15 m and a diameter of 2,6 m. The maximum speed of such a vessel is limited to just 15 km / h, but the cruising range reaches 12 thousand km. The boat will be able to take on board up to 8 tons of cargo and descend to a depth of 3 km. At the same time, it will need to float from time to time to get the atmospheric air used by the power plant.
Also, the SCMP edition recalled the Russian work in the field of underwater UAVs. It is known that Russia has created its own version of a large underwater vehicle capable of carrying nuclear weapons. In the available sources it was claimed that the product called “Status-6” will be able to sail between continents and use a special warhead with a power of 100 mt.
The source said that the Chinese project of an underwater drone does not provide for the use of nuclear weapons. Combat missions will be solved using conventional systems.
The same source indicated the main advantage of unmanned systems. Unlike full-fledged submarines, they can be built in large quantities. The operation of such equipment also turns out to be noticeably cheaper than in the case of manned submarines. The survivability of the “traditional” submarine depends on its secrecy, but besides it, the design has to take into account a number of other issues. It is necessary to take into account the problems of safety, comfort and psychological state of the crew. All this naturally leads to an increase in the cost of the project.
SCMP lists some numbers. In the nineties of the last century, the construction of one Ohio-type submarine for the US Navy cost 2 billion dollars. About 12 billions will be spent on the design and construction of the 120 prospective Columbia-type submarines in the near future. For comparison, the entire budget of the project Lockheed Martin Orca does not exceed 40 million dollars.
A source in the Chinese industry also mentioned a curious feature of drones, directly related to the lack of crew. Such a device can be charged with the destruction of a submarine or an enemy ship in the course of a single and last attack. "Artificial intelligence has no soul, and it is perfect for this kind of work."
The Hong Kong edition also appealed to the professor of the College of Automation at Harbin Engineering University, Lo Youshen, who was also involved in the development of unmanned systems. The professor believes that the emergence of unmanned systems with artificial intelligence will seriously complicate the work of a man-commander of an enemy vessel. In this case we are not talking about the conditional fearlessness of the drone. The fact is that each new device will be able to "learn" from the experience of previous ones and adjust its tactics. An underwater vehicle familiar with a particular area will become a serious threat to the enemy.
However, as noted Luo Yueshen, as long as underwater artificial intelligence devices remain in the early stages of development and are still not ready for deployment at military bases. Designers will have to get rid of several typical problems before their creations can start the service. For example, in the case of drones, there are special requirements for the reliability of onboard equipment. There will be no one or nothing on board the vehicle that can repair a broken engine, a leak in a pipeline, etc.
Professor of the College of Automation believes that the range of tasks solved by unmanned submarines, while not too wide. Such a technique is to perform relatively simple missions. Artificial intelligence can not completely replace a person. At any time, the situation under the water can become more complex, and the computer will not be able to properly understand it and take the necessary measures.
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The Chinese defense industry is never in a hurry to disclose information about its new projects, but some of the data is still in the public domain. If the information sources of the publication of South China Morning Post is true, but it turns out that China has decided to join the work in several interesting areas. The progress achieved in various technologies will, above all, be put at the service of national security.
It is worth noting that underwater unmanned vehicles, systems with elements of artificial intelligence, etc. not fully novelty. However, China plans to combine all these areas in one program, which in itself attracts attention. In addition, the new drone will belong to the class of super-large vehicles - not yet the most popular and popular technology. This fact also could not go unnoticed.
However, so far not a lot is known about the promising Chinese project. In fact, only the very fact of its existence has been published, and it has not yet been officially confirmed. However, in the light of already known information about Chinese projects in the field of the submarine fleet, including the unmanned news look realistic and even expected. With regard to technical details, if you believe the representative of the Shenyang Institute of Automation, they can be published later.
Article "China military develops robotic submarines to launch a new era of sea power": https://scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2156361/china-developing-unmanned-ai-submarines-launch-new-era -sea-power.
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