Attacks by bunches of small, fast boats — swarm attacks — have long been a worry for US Navy commanders, concerned about the difficulty of hitting back at such a nimble target.
Now, a new system called CARACaS, or Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, is being developed to counter a swarm with a swarm — only in this case, a swarm of armed, unmanned surface craft able to maneuver and shoot in a chaotic environment.
The system got a live tryout in mid-August when as many as 13 unmanned small craft maneuvered in Virginia’s James River.
“We took a high-value unit [HVU] and replicated a straits transit,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, head of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), which developed the system. The object of the exercise, he said, was to have CARACaS “protect that unit, be able to sense a threat, engage the threat and encircle the threat to allow the HVU to proceed.”
While operating an unmanned craft isn’t new, operating so many craft at the same time, in concert with each other, is unprecedented.
“Thirteen vessels at one time — it’s never been accomplished before,” Klunder told reporters during a Sept. 30 call.
What’s more, the system can handle up to 20 craft at once, all controlled by one person.
To avoid friendly-fire issues or loss-of-control problems, the system has several fail-safe features, said Robert Brizzolara, ONR’s CARACaS program manager.
“If CARACAS lost communications with the human overseer it would go dead in the water,” Brizzolara explained, adding that each boat had two communications links.
Klunder said the fleet already is planning on making the system operational.
“Our job is to make sure the technology works,” he said. “We’re now coordinating with our fleet commanders. All indications are that we’re going to [become operational] inside a year.” (Defensenews)