America wants more ships and fewer sailors to compete with China’s navy

THE ECONOMIST – 21 September 2020

China now has the world’s largest fleet, alarming its Pacific rival.

THE SEA HUNTER is a sleek grey trimaran that cuts through the water at 27 knots, capable of sailing from San Diego to Tokyo, and back again, on a single tank of diesel—all by itself. The ship is an “autonomous unmanned surface vehicle”—a fancy name for a sailing drone—operated by America’s navy. The air conditioning on board is for the benefit of computers, rather than humans. The design pays little heed to habitability. “I’m on a ship that looks like a Klingon bird of prey,” remarked Robert Work, America’s then deputy secretary of defence, when visiting the ship in 2016. Earlier this month Sea Hunter spent time with the USS Russell, a more traditional destroyer, practising “manned-unmanned teaming”. The idea is that such double acts are the future of naval warfare.

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