Seagull, Elbit Systems' groundbreaking autonomous vessel recently participated in an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercise conducted by the Hellenic and Israeli Navy.
The multi-mission drone ship deployed dipping sonar sensors initially designed to be carried by helicopters.
"The Seagulls' performance in the exercise demonstrated that operating a dipping sonar onboard such a vessel significantly increases the operational working time while substantially enhancing detection capabilities and the effectiveness of Anti-Submarine Warfare," said Elbit.
Three months before the exercise, the Israeli Navy completed a Sea Acceptance Test (SAT) for the dipping sonar (otherwise known as the Helicopter Long-Range Active Sonar (HELRAS)) that was successfully converted from operations on a helicopter to an autonomous boat.
The HELRAS was developed in the 1970s by FIAR and British Aerospace to detect submarines. The sensor was used throughout the Cold War for detection of Russian submarines.
The Seagull team includes three operators, with two remotely managing the mission and the third monitoring the autonomous navigation.
While transiting across the waters, the Seagull can perform real-time detections, mapping, and classification of submarines and mines.
The Seagull is not the first autonomous platform to be designed with submarine hunting in mind.
The autonomous ship "Sea Hunter," developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to hunt submarines, was successfully transferred to the US Navy in 1Q18.
The US Navy also added a fleet of autonomous submarines with the purchase of four of Boeing's Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) that will conduct anti-submarine warfare, electronic warfare, mine countermeasures, and strike missions.
Situational awareness of the sea will lie at the heart of 21st-century ASW and has remained a core mission area for the US Navy.
It seems America's allies and the US Navy are racing towards acquiring new technologies that will better prepare them for future submarine warfare with Russia and or China.