The Next Deep Thing: Is Russia Pursuing Underwater Drones?

© press-service of JSC "PO "Sevmas / Go to the mediabankNuclear submarine (NS) "Yuriy Dolgorukiy" undergoing sea trials
Nuclear submarine (NS) Yuriy Dolgorukiy undergoing sea trials - Sputnik International
The Russian Navy is apparently investing in a technology of the future that has the potential to "revolutionize naval warfare," defense expert Dave Majumdar wrote for the National Interest, referring to unmanned underwater and surface drones.

The official confirmation came this week when Deputy Navy Commander Vice Adm. Alexander Fedotenkov said that the Russian Navy was working on "unmanned boats." He also mentioned that these vessels will be land- and sea-based.Although Fedotenkov seemed to be referring to surface drones, Majumdar assumed that the Russian Navy was also developing autonomous underwater vehicles. 

"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," Majumdar explained.

UUVs have been used for ocean surveillance, environmental research and mine clearing. One recent example includes the Bluefin-21, which took part in the MH370 search efforts. But UUV missions will likely be expanded to include anti-submarine and electronic warfare, as well as intelligence gathering.

© Wikipedia / US Navy Photo/ReleasedUSS North Dakota
USS North Dakota - Sputnik International
USS North Dakota

Combined tactical artillery and reconnaissance units exercise - Sputnik International
Russian Army Gains Over 1,500 Modern Drones in 4 Years - Defense Ministry
The United States has pursued unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) for over a decade. In July 2015, the USS North Dakota, a Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine, successfully launched and recovered a UUV. This was the first test of its kind for the US Navy, which is planning to use commercially available drones for the time being. 

The use of underwater drones has so far been limited as the technology is still in its infancy, but its future looks promising. Stealthy and cost-effective UUVs, just like airborne drones in the skies, are expected to become game-changers in the deep.

"Essentially – once perfected – unmanned underwater vehicles could revolutionize naval warfare. But only time will tell," Majumdar noted.

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