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Navy vessels occasionally encounter swarms of enemy boats. Navy destroyers, cruisers and littoral combat ships are powerful weapon systems, but a dozen or more tiny boats, each with a cache of weapons, can be a problem for large, less-agile vessels. Big Navy ships are not optimized to fight dozens of boats shooting from different angles.

A new software solution, SWARM-Tac, has been developed by Matt Ward, a researcher with the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Port Hueneme, California. As he explains, “What [we’re] trying to do is use machine learning and artificial intelligence to generate tactics for the ship to maximize its probability of success against that type of an attack.” He added that although the technology is still in the development phase, an at-sea test conducted last year using a ship similar to a U.S. Navy vessel yielded “pretty good results.”


The AI-driven software technology ingests sensor information already available on a Navy ship — radar and other things used to give sailors situational awareness of what’s going on around them, as well as information about the ship itself, its available weapons, and the number of attackers. The software synthesizes all that information into solutions — and determines the probability for success of those solutions if chosen — for how to evade or destroy a nasty swarm of enemy boats, according to defense.gov.

In another move, the US Navy will launch a swarm of interconnected small attack drone boats on mock-combat missions to refine command and control technology and prepare its “Ghost Fleet” of autonomous, networked surface craft for war.

The “Ghost Fleet” developed by the Office of Naval Research and Naval Sea Systems Command represents a Navy strategy to surveil, counter, overwhelm and attack enemies in a coordinated fashion – all while keeping sailors on host ships at safer distances, according to nationalinterest.org.