By Abraham Mahshie, Washington Examiner–

The Navy 2nd Fleet is testing unmanned undersea vehicles in a battery of high-end anti-submarine operations taking place this week in the North Atlantic, a region where Russian submarines are known to roam.

“I can’t get into the exact systems, but we are testing a significant number of those UUVs,” Rear Adm. William J. Houston, director of the Navy Undersea Warfare Division, told the Washington Examiner during a Marine Technology Society forum Thursday.

Houston did note that the anti-mining MK18 and Knifefish are among the unmanned submersible platforms being tested.

“We’re using those systems every single day,” he said. “As far as leveraging our technology, I think we still clearly have the overmatch over our potential adversaries.”

Exercise Black Widow includes Navy submarines, surface ships, aircraft, and other undersea capabilities to practice anti-submarine warfare in the high North Atlantic region.

Second Fleet commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis said Wednesday that fast-evolving technology means the Navy must practice new ways of approaching undersea threats.

“Competition in today’s environment demands we think differently and that we attack old problem sets with new solutions,” he said. “This exercise will enhance the lethality of the fleet as one cohesive fighting force.”

The comments came the same day that Defense Secretary Mark Esper called for more spending on shipbuilding and the urgency to keep the “world’s greatest Navy” on par with great power competitors, such as Russia and China.

“These efforts are the next step in realizing our future fleet, one in which unmanned systems perform a variety of war-fighting functions, from delivering lethal fires and laying mines to conducting resupply or surveilling the enemy,” he said during a stop at the RAND Corporation in California, part of a three-day West Coast swing to survey Navy capabilities.

“This will be a major shift in how we will conduct naval warfare in the years and decades to come,” he added.

Esper said that the Navy aims to meet a congressionally mandated 355 ships in the next decade with a balance of manned and unmanned vessels. The Navy’s fleet currently stands at approximately 293 ships.

China is believed to have as many as 350 ships already, though Esper downplayed its naval capabilities.

“I want to make clear that China does not have parity when it comes to our Navy,” he said. “Even if we stopped building new ships, it would take the PRC years to match our capability on the high seas.”

Houston told the Washington Examiner that another Pentagon priority, taking advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning, will be central to maximizing the use of America’s growing fleet of UUVs.

“We’re not going to be a leader on AI. The industry is, but we have to figure out how to leverage that with academia for our specific applications,” he said. “That is really one of the biggest races in our time — is who is going to win the AIML race, and right now, as stated in the press, we are not losing it.”

Tags: NewsNational SecurityDepartment of DefensePentagonMark EsperNavyRussiaChinaAtlantic OceanCalifornia

Original Author: Abraham Mahshie

Original Location: Navy submarines battle test in North Atlantic ‘Black Widow’ exercise