Russia vs. America: The race for underwater spy drones

(From the National Interest)

By Dave Majumdar

Russia is developing a family of unmanned surface and underwater vehicles, a high-ranking official in that country’s navy said this week. While the U.S. Navy has been developing naval drones for more than a decade, this is the first indication that Moscow is working on similar capabilities.

Russian underwater spy robot

Russian underwater spy robot

“Work will be continued in 2016 to develop unmanned boats that can be based both on ships and on the shore,” Vice Adm. Alexander Fedotenkov, deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy told the TASS news agency on Jan. 21.

The Russian developments include autonomous long-range reconnaissance vehicles. But it’s not clear if the Russian navy is developing an autonomous underwater vehicle or a surface vessel. It is possible that the Russians are developing both—but a long endurance unmanned underwater vehicle would make more sense from a military standpoint for its ability to avoid detection. Fedotenkov said that Russia is also working on developing tethered unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) that could undertake complex operations at great depths.

Prototype of a US underwater drone that can be used for surveillance or other purposes

Prototype of a US underwater drone that can be used for surveillance or other purposes

While both the U.S. Navy and Russia are developing naval drones, the technology is in its infancy. The U.S. Navy is relying on commercially available drones until the technology matures. USS North Dakota (SSN-784)—a Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine—launched and recovered a Norwegian-built Remus 600 while submerged for the first time during the summer of 2015. “This was something they thought we could go do. We went out, and we proved that,” North Dakota’s commanding officer, Capt. Douglas Gordon, said at the time. Read more

 



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