Sea Hunter

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Sea Hunter
Sea Hunter
Sea Hunter gets underway on the Willamette River following a christening ceremony in Portland, Oregon in April 2016.
United States
NameSea Hunter
BuilderVigor Industrial
AcquiredApril 2016
IdentificationMMSI number: 369970970
StatusSea trials
General characteristics
TypeUnmanned surface vehicle
Displacement135 tons (standard) 145 tons (full load)
Length132 ft (40 m)
Propulsion2x Diesel engines [1][better source needed]
Speed27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph)
Range10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km)
Endurance30-90 day without supply[2][better source needed]

Sea Hunter is an autonomous unmanned surface vehicle (USV) launched in 2016 as part of the DARPA Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.[3] She was christened 7 April 2016 in Portland, Oregon. She was built by Vigor Industrial.[4] The vessel continues the line of experimental "Sea" ships, including Sea Shadow, Sea Fighter, Sea Jet, and Sea Slice.[5] Sea Hunter is classified as a Class III USV and designated the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).[6]


The initially unarmed prototype, built at a cost of twenty million dollars, is a 132-foot (40 meter)-long trimaran (a central hull with two outriggers). She is an unmanned self-piloting craft with twin screws, powered by two diesel engines with a top speed of 27 knots (31 mph; 50 km/h). Her weight is 135 tons, including 40 tons of fuel, adequate for a 70-day cruise. Cruising range is "transoceanic,"[4] 10,000 nautical miles (12,000 mi; 19,000 km) at 12 knots (14 mph; 22 km/h)[7] fully fueled with 14,000 U.S. gallons (53,000 L) of diesel, enough "to go from San Diego to Guam and back to Pearl Harbor on a tank of gas."[8] Sea Hunter has a full load displacement of 145 tons and is intended to be operational through Sea State 5, waves up to 6.5 ft (2.0 m) high and winds up to 21 knots (24 mph; 39 km/h), and survivable through Sea State 7, seas up to 20 ft (6.1 m) high.[9] The trimaran hull provides increased stability without requiring a weighted keel, giving her a higher capacity for linear trajectories and better operations in shallow waters, though the greater width decreases maneuverability.[6]

A removable operator control station is installed during the testing period "for safety and backup" until it can be determined to reliably operate on her own. Operationally, computers will drive and control the ship, with a human always observing and taking charge if necessary in a concept called Sparse Supervisory Control, meaning a person is in control, but not "joy sticking" the vessel around.[9] The system can patrol without human guidance, using optical guidance and radar to avoid hitting obstacles or other watercraft.[10] The ship has a host of non-standard features because of her lack of crew, including an internal layout that offers enough room for maintenance to be performed but not for any people to be permanently present.[5] She is fitted with quicKutter shaft protection rope/line cutters from Quickwater Marine in Perth; these devices protect the vessel from damage caused by rope or net caught by the propellers, without affecting the vessel's performance.

The craft is expected to undergo two years of testing before being placed in service with the U.S. Navy. If tests are successful, future craft of this type may be armed and used for anti-submarine and counter-mine duties, operating at a cost of $15,000-20,000 per day, a fraction of the cost of a destroyer at $700,000 per day (in 2015, equivalent to $800,239 in 2021);[10][11] she could operate with Littoral Combat Ships, becoming an extension of the LCS ASW module.[9] Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Work said that if weapons are added to the ship, a human would always remotely make the decision to use lethal force.[12]

Following successful initial development, it was reported on 1 February 2018 that DARPA had handed development of Sea Hunter to the Office of Naval Research (ONR).[13]

Sea trials[edit]

On 22 June 2016, Sea Hunter completed initial performance trials, meeting or surpassing all performance objectives for speed, maneuverability, stability, seakeeping, acceleration/deceleration, fuel consumption, and mechanical systems reliability in the open-ocean. Upcoming trials will include testing of sensors, the vessel's autonomy suite, compliance with maritime collision regulations, and proof-of-concept demonstrations for a variety of U.S. Navy missions.[14] Sea Hunter was sent to the ONR in summer 2017 for operational testing and evaluation for mine-countermeasure, EO/IR, and submarine detection capabilities. Plans for FY 2018 include adding intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and offensive anti-submarine payloads.[6]


It has been reported in 2020 that the People's Republic of China was building clones of Sea Hunter.[15]


  1. ^ 2 engine, dailymail
  2. ^ dailymail
  3. ^ Vincent, James (8 April 2016). "The US Navy's new autonomous warship is called the Sea Hunter". The Verge. Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b Njus, Elliot (7 April 2016). "The military's Oregon-built drone ship is headed to California". The Oregonian. Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  5. ^ a b DARPA’s Autonomous Sub-Tracker Archived 2016-05-08 at the Wayback Machine -, 11 April 2016
  6. ^ a b c Navy anti-submarine drone-ship conducts minehunting testing -, 4 May 2017
  7. ^ Pellerin, Cheryl (8 April 2016). "Work: Robot warship demonstrates advances in autonomy, human-machine collaboration" (Press release). U.S. Department of Defense. Archived from the original on 21 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  8. ^ ACTUV on track for Navy success story Archived 2016-12-31 at the Wayback Machine -, 21 December 2016
  9. ^ a b c Christopher P. Cavas (7 April 2016). "Unmanned Sub-Hunter To Begin Test Program". Defense News. Gannett. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  10. ^ a b Stewart, Phil (8 April 2016). "U.S. military christens self-driving 'Sea Hunter' warship". Reuters. Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  11. ^ ACTUV Sea Trials Set for Early 2016 Archived 2015-11-14 at the Wayback Machine -, 9 November 2015
  12. ^ Westcott, Lucy (8 April 2016). "Meet Sea Hunter, the U.S.Navy's robotic, self-driving warship". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 12 April 2016. Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  13. ^ "ACTUV".
  14. ^ Leidos completes initial performance tests of highly autonomous Unmanned Surface Vessel Archived 2016-08-07 at the Wayback Machine -, 27 July 2016
  15. ^ Sutton, H I. "New evidence of China's Copy of U.S. Navy Sea Hunter USV". HI Sutton. Retrieved 16 October 2020.

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