NAVY’s plans for Robot Ships may be Temporarily On the Rocks

After a bruising, year-long fight with Congress, part of the Navy’s plan to field unmanned ships appears to be on life support, making 2021 a crucial year for plotting a path forward.  In the 2021 appropriations and policy bills, lawmakers eviscerated funding for the Navy’s Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV) development program and laid in stringent requirements for the Navy to work out nearly every component of the new vessel before moving forward with an acquisition program. In all, lawmakers slashed more than $370 million from the $464 million the Pentagon requested. Details are available at

However, serious planning for the future of a NAVY augmented by unmanned systems over the longer term is underway.  On 11 January, the chief of naval operations said that a new campaign plan focused on developing unmanned systems for the Navy will be released in the coming weeks.  Adm. Michael Gilday, as quoted by, stated that “The plan — which focuses on air, surface and undersea platforms — will guide the service as it works toward a goal of having a quarter of its fleet be made up of unmanned platforms in the next 10 to 15 years. …By the end of this decade, we must deliver on unmanned,” he said. “We need a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned systems capable of projecting larger volumes of kinetic and non-kinetic effects across all domains. …Our actions in this decade I believe will likely set the maritime balance of power for the rest of the century." Sea Hunter photo and rendering courtesy of DARPA.

Thanks to CDR David Place (USN/Ret), davidplace47[at]gmail[dot]com, and Robin E. Alexander, President ATC, alexander technical[at]gmail[dot]com, for their assistance with this report, portions of which will appear in the next edition of the UNMANNED SYSTEMS NEWS (USN).

David distributes the USN, a free, comprehensive newsletter in PDF format every week or two, as well as serial news flashes, from which this NREF news update was sourced. To be included in his distribution, simply send David a subscribe request to davidplace47[at]gmail[dot]com.

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