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posted by LaminatorX on Sunday October 05 2014, @07:59PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the judgement-day dept.

Jeremy Hsu reports that the US Navy has been testing a large-scale swarm of autonomous boats designed to overwhelm enemies. In the test, a large ship that the Navy sometimes calls a high-value unit, HVU, is making its way down the river’s thalweg, escorted by 13 small guard boats. Between them, they carry a variety of payloads, loud speakers and flashing lights, a .50-caliber machine gun and a microwave direct energy weapon or heat ray. Detecting the enemy vessel with radar and infrared sensors, they perform a series of maneuvers to encircle the craft, coming close enough to the boat to engage it and near enough to one another to seal off any potential escape or access to the ship they are guarding. They blast warnings via loudspeaker and flash their lights. The HVU is now free to safely move away. Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), points out that a maneuver that required 40 people had just dropped down to just one. “Think about it as replicating the functions that a human boat pilot would do. We’ve taken that capability and extended it to multiple [unmanned surface vehicles] operating together… within that, we’ve designed team behaviors,” says Robert Brizzolara. The timing of the briefing happens to coincide with the 14-year anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen that killed 17 sailors. It’s an anniversary that Klunder observes with a unique sense of responsibility. “If we had this capability there on that day. We could have saved that ship. I never want to see the USS Cole happen again.”

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:04PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:04PM (#102147)

    Are there any microwave/radar engineers here who can say how effective a shield of corner reflectors [wikipedia.org] would be for redirecting that heat-ray back at the source? Would the doubling of the distance make it too weak? Is the source likely to be well protected against that sort of energy?

    • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:16PM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:16PM (#102151) Homepage

      A shield made from corner reflectors probably wouldn't be feasible assuming the drone boats could manner for 360-degree coverage. I'd just shoot the fucking thing. Which raises another question, could they justify killing you for attacking one of their unmanned boats?

      Americans are bloodthirsty murderers, so the answer is yes, they can and will gun you down with the .50-caliber gun boat if you attack their microwave boat. This is why you don't fuck with America, because we will blow you and your country up. The bacony scent of your ashes smell like freedom to us, the most freedom-loving country in the world: The United States of America.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:09PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:09PM (#102174)

        Here are two (in)famous USA-made 'heat ray' weapons that worked DEVASTATINGLY well against the Japanese at the end of World War II....

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Boy [wikipedia.org]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Man [wikipedia.org]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki [wikipedia.org]

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debate_over_the_atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki [wikipedia.org]

        Simply horrific... hopefully, these atrocious weapons will never, ever be used again during wartime....

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Dunbal on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:06PM

        by Dunbal (3515) on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:06PM (#102200)

        "I'd just shoot the fucking thing."

        That's usually the simplest solution and the whole point of any combat. If you shoot him dead there's no more combat - you win.

        "Which raises another question, could they justify killing you for attacking one of their unmanned boats?"

        Of course. Even though technically they attack you first with their energy weapon and you are clearly defending yourself, they will shoot you. Hell if cops get away with killing unarmed civilians back home and mercenaries get away with killing foreigners in occupied countries with virtually no consequences, you think the armed forces will think twice about pulling the trigger on anything they might consider to be a weapon?

        However I personally always think that high tech solutions are easily defeated - they defeat themselves through cost/material/manufacturing time and or training. It's been the history of the world. Weapons have come and gone and weapons today bear no resemblance to the sticks or rocks used yesterday. But there is no magical solution. No undefeatable weapon. A rock or a stick in the right place will still kill you as dead as any newfangled toy. Never underestimate the ingenuity of people who need to beat you otherwise they die.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @04:47PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @04:47PM (#102499)

          A Brief History Of Conflict (with apologies to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Hawking [wikipedia.org])

          In the beginning, it was a slugfest as one's two fists were the only weapons that were readily available.

          Then clubs and knives came along.

          Someone thought 'let's mount a knife on the end of a long stick and see what happens.' The spear is born.

          Metalworking is developed and knives are made so big you have to use both hands to hold one. The sword is born.

          'What if I make the spears a lot smaller and invent something that can throw them farther than I can.' TA DA--(cross)bows and arrows.

          And warfare remained like this until the day the Chinese invented gunpowder....

          I just found out that was LITERALLY a mistake!!! o_O;

          When Chinese alchemists invented gunpowder it was a mistake. The alchemists were trying to find a potion for immortality and instead they wound up making an explosion. So the opposite effect came out of the original Idea. Gunpowder consists of potassium nitrate, common charcoal, and sulfur.
          -- http://fourriverscharter.org/projects/Inventions/pages/china_gunpowder.htm [fourriverscharter.org]

          After the invention of gunpowder, conflicts became more brutal and more efficient with the development of firearms of all sorts of shapes and sizes and the platforms that carry, launch, and deliver them, along with bombmaking, the purest form of waging war as destructively as possible!

          Bombmaking returned conflicts back to slugfests but made them impersonal!

          Bombmaking gave the world:

          Landmines that STILL maim and kill after the conflict is over--waiting to be stepped on and set off....

          Suicide bombers that seek to kill themselves and as many of the (perceived) enemy around them as possible--substituting flesh, blood, and an idea one is willing to personally die for in place of precision machinery, electronics, and ballistic technology more commonly used in bomb-delivery missiles.

          And nuclear weapons that hold EVERYONE on Planet Earth hostage with their MERE EXISTENCE and constant threat of use--able to strike anywhere on Planet Earth within an hour and kill MILLIONS OF PEOPLE!...

          Since there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY to unlearn nuclear weapons technology, isn't there some way people can learn to live with one another in true, lasting peace without killing every living thing on the surface of the Earth?...

      • (Score: 2) by Tork on Sunday October 05 2014, @11:23PM

        by Tork (3914) on Sunday October 05 2014, @11:23PM (#102227)
        TIL: Armed response to armed offense is 'bloodthirsty'.
        --
        Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
        • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Monday October 06 2014, @12:55AM

          by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Monday October 06 2014, @12:55AM (#102245) Homepage

          You have a non-human machine inflicting pain upon humans, baiting them into shooting it and justifying a lethal response both provoked and executed by non-human entities?

          You may have successfully baited me into responding to your shitpost, but you have to keep in mind that eventually you too will be on the receiving-end of these military technology developments. That is, unless you're Dianne Feinstein or Debbie Wasserman-Schultz.

          • (Score: 2) by Tork on Monday October 06 2014, @01:32AM

            by Tork (3914) on Monday October 06 2014, @01:32AM (#102253)

            You have a non-human machine inflicting pain upon humans, baiting them into shooting it and justifying a lethal response both provoked and executed by non-human entities?

            Question: How do you open fire in a situation like that and clearly communicate that you have no intention on directing it at the soldiers?

            You may have successfully baited me into responding to your shitpost....

            Uh huh. Look, I don't disagree with you at least in a general sense, but firing guns begets firing guns. This isn't some soldier-invented philosophy.

            --
            Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @12:06AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @12:06AM (#102235)

        > A shield made from corner reflectors probably wouldn't be feasible assuming the drone boats could manner for 360-degree coverage.

        I was thinking more about when those weapons are used for crowd-control, not particularly on boats.

      • (Score: 2) by EQ on Monday October 06 2014, @02:32PM

        by EQ (1716) on Monday October 06 2014, @02:32PM (#102434)

        Americans are bloodthirsty murderers,
          trolling much? Or is it just bigoted hate mongering over generalization on your part?

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @05:59PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @05:59PM (#102538)

          USA's main undertaking is militarism.
          United States military operations [wikipedia.org]

          ...then there's the way USAians forgive their ever-more-militarized police forces when those murder unarmed people.

          -- gewg_

  • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:08PM

    by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:08PM (#102148) Homepage

    I work in the biz, and I found out during a recent outing to a Navy-Associated contractor that the Navy is also planning underwater swarms of autonomous underwater vehicles to operate in littoral areas. If you happen to see something that looks like a slow-moving torpedo, it's not really a torpedo.

    • (Score: 1) by Pherenikos on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:34PM

      by Pherenikos (1113) on Sunday October 05 2014, @08:34PM (#102159)

      If you happen to see something that looks like a slow-moving torpedo, it's not really a torpedo.

      I don't work in the biz, but I would strongly suspect the correct statement is that it's not just a torpedo. If it doesn't have the capability to blow your ship out of the water yet, it will soon.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @01:30AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @01:30AM (#102252)

      Sometimes a torpedo is just a torpedo?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @10:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 07 2014, @10:24PM (#103352)

        And sometimes, it's a penis.

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:06PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:06PM (#102173)

    I think that this is probably a very effective technique. It has been proven to work elsewhere.

    Just look at Firefox, or GNOME 3, or even Debian if you want a really recent example.

    All three were strong, popular open source projects at one time. Then hipsters invaded, bringing dumbass UI designs and systemd. They swarmed and swarmed until they got their way.

    Firefox is near death as a project, with only about 10% of the browser market [caniuse.com], thanks to its UI being destroyed.

    GNOME 3 has become the laughingstock of the open source desktop environments because of its shitty UI.

    Debian is in the process of getting decimated thanks to the forced integration of systemd and GNOME 3. Many Debian users are now moving to Slackware, Gentoo or even FreeBSD. Like Firefox and GNOME 3 today, Debian will be pretty much dead as a project within a few years.

    If a swarm of hipsters can destroy three global open source projects in short order using these swarm techniques, then I am convinced that it would work effectively against a smaller target.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:10PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:10PM (#102175)

      Good analogy.

      Another thing that should remind everyone of systemd is the Ebola epidemic.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:15PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:15PM (#102176)

        That is true. Anything that forces its way into an unwilling host, especially in a detrimental fashion or with harmful effects, can be considered a disease. Systemd is in fact an infection upon otherwise healthy Linux systems.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:27PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:27PM (#102208)

          And all of you pathetic neckbeards who constantly bitch and whine about systemd instead of simply forking the damn thing are a disease as well, infecting our otherwise healthy board against its will with all your useless, annoying crying.

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @12:10AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @12:10AM (#102236)

            Systemd should only exist in a fork of Debian. Mainline Debian shouldn't include systemd. Problem solved.

    • (Score: 2) by kaszz on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:28PM

      by kaszz (4211) on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:28PM (#102209) Journal

      So what's the most effective techniques to spot hipsters? (when clothes or systemd/Gnome3/new-FF affection etc isn't available)

  • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:23PM (#102180)

    Way to go, Hugh Pickens! You managed to get this to be the top story on both Slashdot and SoylentNews at the same time!

    If you get it up on Pipedot in time, you'll have won the coveted TRIPLE CROWN of IDENTICAL ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS!

    • (Score: 2) by Tork on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:59PM

      by Tork (3914) on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:59PM (#102195)
      Some people will always find something to gripe about.
      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @12:29AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @12:29AM (#102241)

        You see "gripes" where there are none.

        • (Score: 2) by Tork on Monday October 06 2014, @01:18AM

          by Tork (3914) on Monday October 06 2014, @01:18AM (#102248)
          Wrong.
          --
          Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:45PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:45PM (#102187)

    ...where they fill up thousands of little motorized dingies with grunts and bombs and send them towards the enemy

    rushing has been proven to work in both ww2 (normandy) and starcraft (zerglings)

  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:45PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:45PM (#102188)

    "I never want to see the USS Cole happen again."

    Easy solution: Bring those people home.
    Bring that hardware home and mothball 80 percent of it.
    Have the Defense Department live up to its name.
    DON'T continue to project power beyond the 20 mile territorial waters of the nation.
    Stop with the imperialism and mercantilism. [google.com]
    You already have those people on the public payroll, now put them to work for the public good.
    Have them rebuild the country's dilapidated infrastructure.

    Expand the program until EVERY American has a job to go to every day.
    80 years ago, when the capitalists weren't hiring, FDR did this for 15 million unemployed Americans.
    We got universal electrification, roads that weren't mostly potholes, a beautiful public park system, and magnificent public buildings.

    Today, we could convert the nation's energy infrastructure to a PUBLIC RENEWABLE system.
    We could bolster the public transit system and convert it to one based on solar electricity.
    We could drastically reduce our dependence on foreign petroleum, eliminating the need to bomb, invade, and occupy countries in possession of that commodity.
    We could also increase the energy efficiency of everything--starting with thermal insulation.
    We could have people doing things which have a multiplier effect on the economy--instead of pouring money down a military rathole.

    -- gewg_

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:57PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @09:57PM (#102192)

      Keep on dreaming big, Greg. We need men like you to lead us into the future.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @09:03AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @09:03AM (#102340)

      didn't work out too well for soviet union

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @05:47PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @05:47PM (#102525)

        The kick start provided by FDR's programs worked great for the USA for 50 years.
        ...then came Thatcher, Reagan, and Neoliberalism.
        Indeed, the most useful critique of FDR is that he made the mistake of retaining Capitalism after it had failed yet again.

        ...and if you think that Totalitarian State Capitalism is a parallel to the New Deal, it shows that you have allowed the indoctrination to which you have been subjected to succeed with your weak mind.
        Some folks are able think for themselves without parroting slogans they heard on Fox so-called News.
        Too bad about you.

        -- gewg_

  • (Score: 1) by gznork26 on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:05PM

    by gznork26 (1159) on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:05PM (#102199) Homepage Journal

    Since the military already have unmanned autonomous aircraft, I have to think that they have already been tricked up with swarming behavior to do similar things in the air. We've seen demonstrations of this done in educational settings, with videos, and we've read about them as well. This technique could be used to protect an aircraft carrying a high value target or weapon on either side of that equation, ours or 'theirs', whoever they are at the moment. Imagine Air Force 1 with a drone escort, for example.

    • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday October 06 2014, @02:33AM

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 06 2014, @02:33AM (#102274) Journal

      Imagine Air Force 1 with a drone escort, for example.

      Against a "cloud" of shrapnel from a nearby exploding missile?
      Swarming is more effective as an attack tactic than in defence.

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @05:01AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @05:01AM (#102306)

        Yeah! Didn't you watch "Ender's Game"? No? Well it was kinda gay Mormon Sci-fi, but still cool tactics, except they were completely fictional.

        • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday October 06 2014, @05:29AM

          by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday October 06 2014, @05:29AM (#102313) Journal
          Have a non-fictional piece of news [theguardian.com] then
          --
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:21PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 05 2014, @10:21PM (#102206)

    Posting as AC because I worked on a similar program, for the US Navy, and the boats were *anything* but autonomous. Sure, the boat was driving itself, but we had to launch it manually, drive it manually out to open water, and then hit a switch to give control to the operators. Oh, and they could only give waypoints, the boat had no smarts to detect and avoid collisions or anything else. I made a robot for FIRST in 11th grade (2003 if anyone is counting) with more automation that these boats I was working on.

    Could things have changed significantly in the 3 or 4 years since I left? Sure, Google's doing wonders with autonomous cars, which by all means should be way harder than an autonomous boat. But based on the people working on the project I highly doubt that anything so revolutionary as true automation has happened. But what do I know, I left because the job was toxic and now I'm doing something way more fun that doesn't involve designing weapons, so I'm a lot happier now.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday October 06 2014, @01:52AM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday October 06 2014, @01:52AM (#102261)

    Almost every naval warfare simulation that has ever taken cost of construction into account has shown that a swarm of small ships will beat capital ships every time.

    The Navy rejects this approach because the capital ships are there to impress with their apparent impregnability, it's their primary function, not fighting to the death - down in the trenches with lives on the line on both sides...

    Now, if our swarm of low cost ships are not putting sailors' lives on the line, they start to look a whole lot more practical from a "peacekeeping" standpoint. Not only can you not hope to take down the high value target, you will also likely get thwarted by the low cost swarm.

    --
    John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
  • (Score: 2) by PinkyGigglebrain on Monday October 06 2014, @02:15AM

    by PinkyGigglebrain (4458) on Monday October 06 2014, @02:15AM (#102268)

    This new Navy system sounds like it would work fine if there is only one-two incoming targets. But what if there are 5 or more coming in from all directions?

    Any defense system can be overwhelmed by attacking with more threats than the system is designed to handle and a swarm attack can work both ways.

    --
    "Beware those who would deny you Knowledge, For in their hearts they dream themselves your Master."
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @07:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 06 2014, @07:05AM (#102322)

      Especially as attack is always cheaper than defense.

  • (Score: 2) by cykros on Tuesday October 07 2014, @10:22PM

    by cykros (989) on Tuesday October 07 2014, @10:22PM (#103351)

    Swarming drones eh? Sounds like the Navy is familiar with the works of Daniel Suarez [wikipedia.org]. Now I'm just curious as to whether or not they modeled them on the swarming behavior of weaver ants...