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Pentagon seeks naval attack drones to thwart Taiwan invasion

Drone swarms would sow confusion and buy time for US and Taiwan to bolster forces

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As many as 13 Navy boats operated using either autonomous or remote control during a two-week test conducted in August 2014. (US Navy image)

As many as 13 Navy boats operated using either autonomous or remote control during a two-week test conducted in August 2014. (US Navy image)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Pentagon is seeking pitches for small naval attack drones that could help hold off a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) said on Monday (Jan. 29) it wants companies to submit proposals for the use of nimble unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), reported USNI News. These vessels are intended to counter China's military buildup by fielding "thousands of autonomous systems across multiple warfighting domains."

The DIU is looking to purchase the USVs in large quantities to meet the U.S. Navy's requirement for "small autonomous attack craft capable of 'intercepting' enemy vessels at high speeds." The news agency cited naval analyst Bryan Clark as saying the defense department wants new military-grade USVs from private industry that can be deployed "probably in the Western Pacific context — maybe the Strait of Taiwan."

The report said the U.S. Navy is developing a strategy called "hellscape" to foil a Chinese amphibious assault on Taiwan by unleashing unmanned systems on the subsurface, surface, and air. The goal would be to disrupt a coordinated attack "sow confusion and chaos in the strait and buy time for the U.S. and Taiwan to bring more forces."

Among the requirements listed for the new systems would be the ability to autonomously maneuver through hostile waters, loiter in designated zones, identify enemy vessels, and reach a speed of at least 35 knots (65 kph) to strike enemy ships.