The Navy has identified unmanned systems as a high-priority investment area, and is developing a diverse array of robotic sea vehicles. Some of these vehicles are genuinely autonomous warships, but with no crews. The Navy’s main focus to date has been on how such sea vehicles might enable new warfighting concepts like distributed maritime operations. Over the long run, use of unmanned sea vehicles might also support new approaches to naval shipbuilding. Because unmanned systems do not need to host sailors, they are simpler to design, engineer, construct and support. They may also facilitate faster introduction of new technology. The Navy can accelerate its inquiries into the utility of unmanned systems for a relatively modest amount of money, in the process discovering what breakthroughs in shipbuilding might become possible. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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