DARPA Plans to Launch 132-Foot Unmanned Warship in April

It sounds like science fiction: an unmanned warship patrolling the seas, autonomously searching for enemy submarines. But DARPA is in the business of bringing science fiction ideas to life, and a robotic ship like that is just what the defense research agency plans to launch this April, reported National Defense magazine.

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The ACTUV (a questionable acronym formed from "Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel") is a 130-foot, 140-ton vessel that, when it departs the coast of Portland, Oregon on April 7, will be the largest autonomous surface vehicle ever deployed.

"Imagine an unmanned surface vessel following all the laws of the sea on its own and operating with manned surface and unmanned underwater vehicles," said DARPA Deputy Director Steve Walker at a press conference Wednesday.

While it is designed to eventually patrol and take on a variety of missions either too dangerous or too tedious for crewed vessels, ACTUV won't enter military service right away. Its first 18 months will consist of long-range cruises to demonstrate its capabilities and, of course, sort out any bugs in the system.