Seafox (via US Navy)
With tensions mounting between Iran and the US over keeping the Strait of Hormuz (located between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf) open as one of the primary oil shipping lanes in the region, the US is set to employ yet another piece of technology in their maritime arsenal; the SeaFox submersible UUV (Underwater Unmanned Vehicle) robot. The SeaFox and its variants can be outfitted with mission specific gear capable of mine-detection, inspection and disposal for both floating and submerged-drifting explosives.
The Navy’s main submersible tasked for these missions is Atlas Elektronik’s 90lbs C-variant which is outfitted with 3,000 feet of fiber-optic cable used to control the UUV (as well as receiving telemetry) along with an integrated sonar unit which helps the pilot locate targets in the UUV’s AO (Area of Operation). Once the UUV gets within range of the mine, the pilot can examine the explosive using the UUV’s onboard CCTV camera which can provide greater details as to what type of mine is used in order to take action against it. This process involves (if possible) relocating the mine to a safe distance depending on the location it was found. Once determination of the explosive has been made, the sub will detonate its stored shape-charge which destroys the mine safely. Yes, each SeaFox UUV is designed to be disposable (at approximately $100,000 US apiece) and act as an under-water ‘Kamikaze’ as a safety precaution which is an invaluable tool for Navy EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) and NSW (Naval Special Warfare) operators.
The sub is 4 feet long and can operate at depths of 1,000 feet and travel at a top speed of 6.9 mph. The sub is also able to be deployed from multiple platforms including RHIB’s (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat), rotary-wing aircraft as well as varied ship platforms (bigger boats). The deployment of the SeaFox will augment the 8 mine-sweepers along with two carrier-groups already in the region with a third (the USS Stennis) set to arrive in a few months. Spending that amount of money for a disposable piece of equipment seems rather high but then again; if its sole purpose is to provide a safe way of dealing with mines then the price may justify its actions. However, land-based EOD units routinely use ROV robots to disarm IED’s with minimal loss of the robots or other valuable equipment. What do you think, is $100,000 apiece too much for a disposable UUV?