Navy Takes Over Ghost Fleet Overlord, the Autonomous Surface Vessels of the Future

Ghost Fleet Overlord test vessel 4 photos
Photo: U.S. Navy
Ghost Fleet Overlord test vesselGhost Fleet Overlord test vesselGhost Fleet Overlord test vessel
For a number of years now, drones have been part of our civilian lives. They have also been enlisted by the armies of the world and used in a large number of conflicts. But there’s one peculiar thing about them, no matter which one: for now, drones are mostly confined to the air.
On the military front, a number of defense contractors have already begun working on autonomous ground systems, and we’ve already started seeing the results. To a lesser extent, waterborne drones are also in the pipeline.

Back in 2018, the U.S. Defense Department’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) launched a program called Ghost Fleet Overlord. It was an effort meant to come up with uncrewed vessels that could be used in tandem with crewed ones, because according to Navy Vice Adm. Stephen T. Koehler, the Commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet, this is the future.

For the task, two commercially available vessels were fitted with perception and autonomy systems, but also comms, to allow them to operate on their own. They are called USV Prototypes 1 and 2, or Nomad and Ranger, and to date have traveled on their own close to 30,000 nautical miles (34,500 miles/55,500 km).

Four years into the program, the two ships will continue their trials, only no longer in the hands of the SCO, but the Navy Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC). The switchover took place earlier this week, at Naval Base San Diego.

As per available info, testing of the two ships will continue throughout the year. Two more are expected to join the trials, and the Navy should make a decision to move forward with a contract soon. At the time of writing five companies are in the cards for production: Austal, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Fincantieri Marinette, Bollinger Shipyards, Lockheed Martin and Gibbs & Cox.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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