SINGAPORE: The action begins at a distance of about 100 km from the mother ship, and the enemy does not see an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) staggering high in the sky, not to mention the mother ship itself.
But the UAV sees the enemy. High-definition cameras, High-zoom – powerful enough to see the features on your face – easily identify the enemy: a hostile motorboat carrying armed.
The pictures are quickly passed on to the mothers. Within its command center, the operator sends more robotic weapons: a unmanned surface ship (USV) descends from the side.
A positive USV follows the enemy. A speedboat does not approach – not within 10 km of the mother ship – when the USV locks on and destroys it.
Based on a video presented at the IMDEX international exhibition held this year in Singapore, a combat scenario can occur when the mother ship works with a team of unmanned drones and UAVs, allowing the sea to see earlier and strike faster.
Last June, Minister of Defense NG Eng announced that the Republic of Singapore (RSN) would replace its aging missile corvette with the Multipurpose Combat Ship (MRCV), a type of ship carrying unmanned aerial platforms.
"They will have … a modular package that will expand their ability and flexibility against the threats," he repeated in March during a speech by the MinDEF.
The first MRCVs will be delivered around 2025, with full delivery expected by 2030.
The concept of motherhood is not new. The US Special Operations Command has deployed a mother ship that can carry massive loads of military platforms, equipment and equipment, while the Royal British Navy develops multi-functional ships capable of carrying out a wide range of operations, including support for crisis and war.
And so to find out exactly what a mother ship can do, CNA has spoken with security companies at IMDEX Binary Asia, featuring more than 230 companies from 29 countries. Between May 14 and 16, defense giants such as Lockheed Martin, Rafael in Israel and Leonardo participated.
The first stop was a gigantic, promising mega show at the entrance: the Singapore Defense Corporation ST Engineering.
One USV that could be paired with the mother ship is Venus ST of Engineering 16. The RSN tested the Venus 16 from as early as 2015, when it was used during naval exercise to chase suspicious vessels.
MINDEF also revealed in March that the RSN was developing three types of USVs to anti-mines and conduct beach patrols. In the latter role, the USVs eventually replace the RSN's assigned vessel, allowing the ships to be deployed farther strategically to complex missions.
What makes Venus 16 suitable for the mother ship system is its size and ability to play multiple roles, say industry players.
Its 16M length means that it is small enough to accommodate a mother ship, but large enough to carry a remote-activated gun for protecting the power and extra charge depending on the mission. The size also matters when navigating turbulent days and carries enough fuel to stay out longer.
For my cleaning tasks, Venus 16 can be equipped with trailing sonar to detect mines, while another can carry a biodegradable robot to get rid of mines. For anti-submarine missions, sonar immersion can be tied to the submarine site before the mother ship.
"Our design is so flexible that the same platform can be used to integrate different types of cargo," Vice President of Engineering ST, Marine Technology Solutions Ng Tee Guan told CNA.
Venus 16 can also be used for patrols and rescue and rescue, said Ho Ka Tong, vice president of engineering of ST of unmanned marine systems, a large-scale systems group.
Operators can plan a circuit and go hands like the boat will automatically plies the track and avoids obstacles, all while using day and night cameras to send back information to the mother ship.
When Venus 16 is in the open sea and there is not enough communication bandwidth to send huge amounts of imaging data, its sensors can only choose basic data relay identification, such as a form of structure or a type of ship.
Returning to the Mothership Dashboard, Visualization Engine will use the data to reconstruct a 3D video showing what is around Venus 16. This allows operators to see buildings on the beach or a warship passing by and allowing them to maintain situational awareness.
But Mr. Ho said the visualization engine is still in development as it requires a lot of artificial intelligence learning machine.
Independent underwater vehicle
With the sea surface covered, attention now turns to the subsoil.
One unmanned underwater system for a mother-ship is ST Engineering's autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), designed to scan the sea floor for mines.
With its integrated sensors, Mercury can navigate and identify mines in denser water than mine against anti-USVs, which move with trailing sonar. Mercury is also designed for shallow water, where the currents are stronger and mines are usually deployed.
"When you're in an area of 10 depth, this is where you have to wash the surface and currents under water, sometimes in different directions," said Deputy Director of Engineering Department ST, Marine Division Systems Division. Yi Poh told the CNA.
"So, these types of dynamics against the stability make a problem.But we have perfected this AUV, tested it more than seven years in Singapore."
Reading: Submarines like BMW A closer look at the new German submarine fleet
Apart from anti-mines, Mercury can be used as port security as well as search and rescue operations. Future applications include anti-submarine warfare.
"We're an agnostic load," Mr. Poe added. "Depending on the concept of operations, we can work with suppliers and chargers into a package within our form factor."
Reading: Meet the Republic of Singapore The New Navy of Shrimp. They even call it invincible & commentary
Mercury's small diameter also enables it to accommodate the common ship configurations and to break up from any ship with a one-ton crane. Run and restore remotely with a 10 "laptop.
When it comes to pairing mother ships with UAVs, the RSN has already done so with its ScanEagle missile corvette, actually expanding the ship's vision by 100km.
But ScanEagle, by the UAV manufacturer owned by Boeing Insitu, is already into the third iteration.According to the Insitu website, the ScanEagle 3 includes dual cargo capacity to collect and analyze additional data in a single flight.
Insitu spokesman was not available for comment when CNA visited its cell IMDEX 2019.
However, another player in the industry said that large ships buy new frigates or corvettes choose to pair them with larger, more powerful UAVs that can see even farther.
One such option is the Skeldar V-200, as a helicopter like a UAV that carries more high-performance sensors and transmitters to send information from 200km away.
"If you face the threat of having such a system, they will have a direct advantage over you," said Richard Hillberg, senior sales manager at UMS Skeldar, a joint venture of Swedish defense company Saab. "They would see you before you see them."
Beyond superior tracking capabilities, the Skeldar-V200 can also take off and land vertically and autonomously, all with the push of a few buttons. There is no need to launch and rehabilitate bulky equipment; Only regular helicopters are fixed with a rubber pad and automatic landing sensors.
"From the landing, it only takes 30 seconds until the rotor stops," added Hjelmberg. "So, it's easy for the ship crew to dock it or take it into the bay."
Then there is the mother ship itself.
At IMDEX 2019, ST Engineering unveiled its Vanguard 130, a multi-functional war ship capable of deploying a wide range of unmanned systems like the USV, AUV and UAV.
In the media edition, the company described the ship as "a good fit for ship operators seeking improved cost efficiency and flexible ship deployment."
Compared with modern frigates, it can also operate with a "fairly significant reduction" personnel, senior engineering vice president vice president, Engineering Planning Center Mathai Pambrakaran told CNA.
Mr. Pambrakaran said the ship could carry two Venus 16 USVs, two AUV Mercury and two ScanAagle UAVs. It also has a mission bay capable of holding smaller USVs than manned boats.
USVs and AUV can be deployed from flushed doors on the side or ramp behind, while UAVs can soar vertically or be launched from a landing pad on the back deck.
"We have manned and unmanned crews, and this platform acts as a hub to coordinate such activities," he said, noting that the ship could use the spacecraft to deal with threats from the sea, the air under water.
The Vanguard 130 will also use an array radar array which will not spin as conventional radar, eliminating moving parts and reducing maintenance costs. "We use a lot of new technology on this platform," said Mr. Pambrakaran. "Cyber Security, Data Analysis – It's a Smart Ship."
A different picture
But the concept of mothers has limitations.
One industry player said the launch and recovery of USVs from the mother ships is "inherently dangerous and difficult," especially if sea conditions are extremely difficult. Moreover, operators on the mother ship had an additional task of monitoring unmanned systems.
"Here you look at the other pictures – surveillance, submarine warfare – and you still have to worry about two USVs you just released six hours ago," said James Sun, president of the USV Zycraft.
For reconnaissance missions, USVs that use conventional radio communications are also limited by the distance from which they can send back information, he noted, noting that it is not very strategic for them to be so close to the mother ship.
"If you ship if and you send USV 12 miles, 12 miles still inside the radar horizon of the mother ship," he added, "Why are you going so far just to launch a boat that goes another 12 miles?"
Instead, Zycraft's vibrant USV uses satellite communications, meaning it can track from almost unlimited distances. It also uses a smaller engine and propulsion system that burn fuel more slowly so that it can stay outdoors at sea for 25 days at slower speeds.
But since the guard is about 17 meters, Mr. Sun said it would not fit most mothers-not as he saw the need.
"If I want to send a USV to operate 200 miles from Singapore, why should I use the mother ship? I can drive the USV there and leave it there for 20 days," he added.
Mr. Sun believes that the USV with the right size – not too small, because it can not hold much, but not too large, because it can be spotted remotely – can be an effective warship killer when powered from land.
According to Mr. Sun, a 17V long USV guard as there is enough luggage space to hold a significant amount of fuel and small missiles with a range of approximately 10 km (16 km).
"We can see a warship in 10 miles, we can take out a warship in 10 miles," he said, noting that war-boat cannons would not be able to reach such a range, while its missiles would not be wasted on low-value levels like USVs.
"They did not know it was coming, and by the time they realized it was coming, it was too late."