The New Navy Has Both Faster and Unmanned Subs

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which commissions research for the Defense Department, gave Electric Boat a truckload of money in 2006 to design a small submarine to transport people and cargo at 100 knots (about 115 miles an hour).  The program name…Underwater Express. Not the most imaginative name. I would have went with Rapid Death Squid or something like. Electric Boat is ready to unleash next year a quarter-scale model to be tested off the coast of Rhode Island or Kevin’s bathtub depending on availability.

So how does Electric Boat plan to obtain 100 knots?  Science Baby! When an object moves fast enough through water a gas bubble is created around itself and effectively eliminating any drag. This process called supercavitation allows an object to speed along at a much faster speed.  Toward the end of WW2 the Soviets had created a torpedo that utilizes supercavitation but scaling up to another sub is whole other bottle of vodka. Electric boat will demonstrate this concept in action with 8 ft diameter 100 ft length “model” in the spring of 2010 where the demonstration will include a 10 minute run at speeds up to 100 knots.

You can see what this process looks like modeled or around a designed foil and propeller below the fold.

In addition, the navy is exploring and developing submarine launched drones through its Irregular Warfare Office.  According to an interview with Rear Adm. Mark W. Kenny by Special Operations Technology reporter Scott Gourley, Ohio-class guided-missile subs are not outfitted with drones. In the interview Rear Adm. Kenny outlined a specific torpedo sized submarine drone called Sea Stalker.  Sea Stalker is over shoulder right now! “The [concept] is to launch these from submarines at night,” Kenny said. “They will transit to offshore, anchor, put their antennas out and begin collection. Ideally you would have a series of these … to cover different ports or hotbeds of terrorist activity. And then you would collate that information on board the ship.”

There is no reliable photographs of any these available yet, either artist renderings or mistaken identities.


Dr. M (1618 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, created to facilitate research to address fundamental questions in evolutionary science. He has conducted deep-sea research for 11 years and published over 40 papers in the area. He has participated in dozens of expeditions taking him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses mainly on marine systems and particularly the biology of body size, biodiversity, and energy flow. He focuses often on deep-sea systems as a natural test of the consequences of energy limitation on biological systems. He is the author and chief editor of Deep-Sea News, a popular deep-sea themed blog, rated the number one ocean blog on the web and winner of numerous awards. Craig’s popular writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.





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2 comments on “The New Navy Has Both Faster and Unmanned Subs
  1. It’s BUDGET TIME!!

    First, the Soviet Shkval torpedo was developed in the 1980′s

    Second, supercavitaion

    1) Blinds your own sonar

    2) Makes a noise loud enough to be heard a couple of hundred miles away by modern passive sonars (warship propellors are designed NOT to caviate for that very reason). Since a sub’s primary value is stealth, the idea is nonsensical

    3) Objects moving at high speed in any medium are predictable – it takes a lot of energy and time to change the course (Newton’s Laws of Motion). So anyone who wants to intercept it, just tracks the noise signal for a brief period, gos to where the computer says the sub si alikely to be and voila. And because you are blind (see item 1), you don’t even know he’s waiting for you.

    Oh, and if you apply too much force trying to maneuver, you break the vehicle. In a sub, there aern’t any ejection seats, everybody dies.

    Outside of that, it’s a great idea.

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