The appearance of two unmanned warships belonging to the US “Ghost Fleet” program in Japan is said to prepare a plan to deal with China.
Low-cost unmanned ships have been listed as one of the core of the US Navy’s future fleet plans. To achieve this goal, the Pentagon is stepping up testing of automated operations of unmanned warships through the Ghost Fleet Overlord program.
The US Navy said on September 18 that two of its “extremely secret” unmanned warships, the USV Mariner and LUSV Ranger, appeared at Yokosuka base, where the US 7th Fleet is stationed in Japan. Some analysts believe that this is a rare time the “Ghost Fleet” is stationed in East Asian waters and they may be adapting to the environment to prepare for a “conflict” with China.
The two drone boats also have an Aegis combat system from Lockheed Martin and can connect with other Aegis ships in the fleet. The US Navy has test-fired SM-6 interceptor missiles from these drone boats. The Ranger was the first vessel delivered to the Navy under the program, while the Mariner was the third and was inducted in August 2022.
According to reports, the cost of a fleet of large manned ships is rising rapidly, and concerns that a “possible great power conflict” could leave the US Navy vulnerable Because of China’s asymmetric warfare strategy, the US Navy plans to deploy from 77 to 140 large and medium-sized unmanned ships. This is to supplement the number of manned ships in the future.
Starting in 2018, the US Navy under the name Ghost Fleet Overlord program has converted a number of commercial fast resupply ships into unmanned surface ships, including the Ranger, Mariner, Nomad, Sea Hunter, Sea Hawk… These unmanned ships can carry multiple containers equipped with core equipment and sensors related to navigation and mission execution. This program is implemented by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office in coordination with the US Navy.
India’s Eurasia Times newspaper said that although the US has many military bases in Japan and only the Reagan stationed in Yokosuka is the only aircraft carrier deployed in the front, the ship’s appearance US drones in the region are “rare”. In May 2022, the US Navy established the USV Division One (USVDiv1) unit on the country’s West Coast to be the fleet-based testing arm for USVs and their associated autonomy systems and payloads. It also operates the unmanned-vehicle operations center located at Port Hueneme, California.
The arrival of these USVs in Japan was hailed as a relatively rare and intriguing development by military watchers, especially amid rising regional tensions. The news also corresponds with Taiwan disclosing that about 103 Chinese warplanes flew towards the island on September 18, at a new daily high. Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) also urged Beijing to stop “military harassment.”
It is believed that any conflict fought over Taiwan would inadvertently drag Japan due to its proximity to Taipei. To bolster its capability at sea against adversaries like China, the US Navy is working on a plan that requires the service to field manned-unmanned sea systems over the next decade, which would release weapons and fire missiles without onboard human engagement.