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Pentagon Test-Fires Anti-Ship Missile From Unmanned Vessel 

The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced a missile launch from the unmanned surface vessel (USV) Ranger in a milestone test.

The DoD’s Twitter post video shows an SM-6 missile fired from a four-pack containerized launcher off the ship’s deck. The three-in-one Raytheon missile is capable of anti-air warfare, ballistic missile defense, and anti-surface warfare missions, according to the manufacturer. 

Ghost Fleet Overlord Program

The Ranger is one of the two USVs of the Pentagon’s Ghost Fleet Overlord program, under which surface vessels are converted into USVs in the first stage and then fitted with “command-and-control systems and payloads” for more complex experimentation, wrote Naval News. Information gathered from the experiments will be used to help accelerate the US Navy’s large and medium USV programs, the outlet added.

Last year, the USVs Ranger and Nomad transited autonomously from the Gulf of Mexico to the West Coast of the US as part of their trials.  

At the Panama Canal, the onboard crew of the vessels guided the ships, the DoD said, adding, “optionally manned vessels provide a stepping stone to allow the Navy and its sailors to more easily become familiar with the concept of autonomous operations than what would be possible with a fully autonomous ship.” According to The Drive, two more USVs will be added to the program.  

Navy’s Push for Unmanned Vessels

The navy’s push for unmanned vessels includes those that can perform various tasks such as “offensive operations and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance with reduced risk to crew and legacy vessels.”

In a related development, the US Navy announced an operational command to test and develop a new generation of USVs beginning next year. 

Unmanned Vessel Division

The new command will be part of the Navy’s Surface Vessel Division One (SURFDEVRON 1), established in 2019 to rapidly develop new warfighting concepts and capabilities through the integration of USVs and the support fleet.

Capt. Henry Adams, Commander Surface Development Squadron ONE, told Breaking Defense that the Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One will be “purpose-built to train and operate USVs at scale.”

“Getting the agreement from ‘big Navy’ to allow the surface force to establish the subordinate command whose day job is to train and operate USVs is a big deal,” Adams added.

“And it is going to be that initial operational unit from which we’ll be able to scale USV training, maintenance, and operations.”




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