An unmanned underwater vehicle that US Navy plans to deploy on its destroyers. Photo courtesy.
By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
The U.S. Navy has approved the use of buoyancy gliders by all of its destroyers. These unmanned underwater vehicles use wave energy to propel themselves at sea. The Navy probably will use them to locate enemy submarines.
According to Seapower Magazine, buoyancy gliders were originally developed by the scientific community to provide low-cost, autonomous drones capable of spending long periods of time at sea. The drones look like cruise missiles, with blunt noses, a vertical stabilizer tail fin, and two small winglets.
Once released into the sea, the drone moves by taking water into its nose, causing it to sink and move forward. The glider is powered by a battery pack that can slide back and forth to change its center of gravity, changing its angle of descent.
After reaching 150 to 180 meters, the drone expels the water, causing it to rise. The drone can rise all the way to the surface, whereupon it can check in with its operators, uploading data and downloading new instructions.
Here’s the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Slocum Glider (pictured above) in action:
The obvious military use here e is to locate enemy submarines. The buoyancy glider has no engine, so it’s virtually undetectable. A glider equipped with passive sonar arrays could take up station in an area where enemy submarines are known to transit and quietly listen.
Once it detects a submarine, it could rise to the surface and broadcast an alert, passing on the submarine’s speed and heading—and maybe even type—to friendly forces.
Under the current scheme, the Navy will deploy buoyancy drones from submarines. Another possible way to use them is to create an acoustic detection network.
During the Cold War the United States maintained a permanent network of underwater hydrophones, the SOSUS network, in the Atlantic Ocean to detect Soviet submarines.
A fleet of buoyancy drones could accomplish the same mission, constantly moving to avoid being sabotaged and to change coverage areas. If a drone were lost, a new one could be dropped off to keep the network intact.
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