Louisiana-based shipbuilder Metal Shark announced that it had been selected by the Marine Corps to develop the “Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel,” or LRUSV, a groundbreaking project that could help transform how the U.S. wages war.
LRUSV vessels, Metal Shark said, will be optionally manned, meaning they could travel autonomously or be controlled by human crews. Such vessels fit within the Pentagon’s broader initiativeto develop planes, tanks and other vehicles that can operate with or without human occupants.
But what makes the LRUSV especially appealing for military leaders — and potentially terrifying for America’s enemies — is its ability to carry so-called “loitering munitions,” also informally known as suicide drones or kamikaze drones. Named after their ability to loiter near a target before launching an attack, the craft could play a huge role in 21st-century combat and are widely expected to become a battlefield staple over the next decade.
Metal Shark officials say the project is a key step forward in military technology.
“The LRUSV program represents a significant milestone for autonomous technology, for the defense world, and for the entire shipbuilding industry,” the company’s CEO, Chris Allard, said in a statement this week.
“Metal Shark has designed, built, and delivered over 400 autonomous and remotely operated vessels to date,” he said. “As we develop and deploy the LRUSV system for the Marine Corps, we will continue to work with clients across government and commercial markets, integrating the systems of multiple technology partners into our boats, solidifying our leadership position in the autonomous vessel space, and streamlining the path to autonomy.”
The proliferation of drone technology, military analysts have said, is already changing the nature of war. The Pentagon is investing in its own unmanned technology programs while also developing comprehensive new strategies to defend against drones, which are now widely available to militaries around the world and even non-state actors such as terrorist groups.
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