Last week, the United States Navy released industry solicitations for their new conceptual large unmanned surface vehicles (LUSV), as they begin the hunt for the right ship builder to assemble a fleet of ten of these large drone ships. Building off the successes the Navy and DARPA have had with their autonomous Sea Hunter drone ship program, the Navy is now looking to begin fielding 200-300 foot vessels in the next few years, designed to accept a wide variety of modular load outs based on their operational requirements.
Not one to be outdone, the Chinese government announced this week that their own drone warship, the JARI multi-purpose unmanned combat vessel, is already entering full service. Unlike the U.S. Navy’s plans for large drone ships, these JARI drone vessels measure in at just 50 feet, displacing around 20 tons. However, Chinese media indicates that these small vessels are so jam packed with firepower that these drones will be able to absorb the role of their Type 052 destroyers in a variety of operations, including air defense, anti-ship, and anti-submarine warfare.
With direct comparisons often made between China’s Type 052 destroyers and America’s own Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, that means these small automated warships reportedly pack just about as much punch as one of America’s destroyers — thanks to its high-powered radar array, vertical launch tubes for missiles, and ability to launch torpedoes. Even Chinese media have taken to calling these drones “mini Aegis-class destroyers,” though their small size would indicate that it would take a number of these drones to match a destroyer in volume of firepower.