The great powers have been working on developing unmanned technologies for use in warfare. Almost everyone at this point knows about drones, properly
unmanned aerial vehicles, and their extensive use by the US and, more recently, China and her clients in combat. Drone strikes, as they are called
colloquially, are very much a part of part of modern warfare. Aircraft is not the only area the great power militaries have been working on for
unmanned combat vehicles: unmanned underwater vehicles (robo subs), unmanned ground vehicles and unmanned surface vehicles (ro-boats).
The US has the definite lead in USVs. The US Navy has budgeted and is ordering two Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSV) this year. Each of
these are 2,000 ton ships and intended to have a range of 3,200 miles and sport 32 VLS cells, eventually. The LUSV's role is that of a mini
arsenal ship, allowing manned ships to stay in the fight while the LUSV fires off its weapons and leaves to replenish. The Navy is also ordering
Medium USVs like the SeaHunter as sensor platforms and has been working on the Fleet class CUSV as minehunters and potentially against boat
swarms like what the Iranians like. The Seahunter is 145 tons at full load and the Fleet is almost 8 tons. The Fleet has entered true production and
the MUSV is going through procurement now, like the LUSV. The US isn't the only nation working on USVs though.
China is also working on its own USVs. So far, they have been like the Fleet class CUSV. Some have been weird, like a UGV/USV combination for
amphibious landings. However, the one with the most progress and most likely to go into production is a CUSV-like boat with armed with light weapons.
Pictures recently emerged of the boat.
In terms of sensors, the Chinese USV seems to be far more aggressive than the American counterpart. The sensor package appears, stress, /appears/ to
be far more extensive than the one used by the Fleet class. However, as outfitted, the Chinese boat is armed as well as having multiple radars,
whereas the CUSV has sonars and basic radar and possible a lidar.
The other noted difference is the Chinese USV is that it is armed with a small calibre automatic weapon in a turret. Versions of display models of
the USV at trade shows have shown small rockets and antiship missiles. However, no pictures of those weapons on the operational prototype have been
seen as yet.
Technologically, the Chinese appear to be about 15 years behind the US Navy. However, the US Navy has been having procurement issues. bureaucracy
and waffling leadership has hurt the US efforts. Recently, that seems to have radically changed. So much so, Congress put the limit on the LUSV VLS
cells until Congress feels comfortable the Navy isn't going to suddenly change direction or end up producing an LCS. Again.
1. Bolos, Ogres and Terminators, oh my!
3. Congress wants the Navy to verify this is what they really want before spending the money to put weapons on them.