Braithwaite floats new unmanned ship for ballistic missile defense mission

By Justin Katz / May 8, 2020 at 9:42 AM

The president's Navy secretary nominee yesterday floated the possibility of a new unmanned surface vessel performing the ballistic missile defense mission.

The comments from Kenneth Braithwaite, a retired Navy rear admiral and currently the top U.S. diplomat in Norway, came in answers to written policy questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Lawmakers asked the ambassador what opportunities exist to free up BMD-capable Navy ships that are currently tied to defending land-based forces.

"I believe there are several opportunities where advancements in technologies can transition traditional missions and roles from the current Aegis BMD ship," he wrote.

"As an example, I am aware the Navy is pursuing the development and fielding of Large Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSV) that, if configured accordingly, could provide BMD capability similar to BMD DDGs and offer flexibility of employment for Aegis BMD ships," he continued.

A chorus of bicameral and bipartisan lawmakers last year criticized the Navy's budget request for how heavily it invested in unmanned technologies, platforms lawmakers argued were untested in combat.

Those concerns resulted in legislation barring the Navy from initially incorporating a Vertical Launching System onto the LUSV, leading the service to drastically overhaul its acquisition plans for the platform and delay its ongoing competitive solicitation.

Officials from the Navy's unmanned maritime systems program office have said they are designing the new unmanned ship primarily for anti-surface warfare and strike missions.