Portland will launch a gigantic, high-tech, experimental robot ship—the biggest robot ship ever made.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—the subdivision of the Defense Department in charge of devising Really Scary Shit That's Never Been Seen on Earth Before—is coming to Portland to debut a robot ship longer than the longest blue whale ever recorded, whose job is to sail the high seas forever, relentlessly chasing down cheap, silent, diesel-powered submarines like the kind built in droves by Russia, China and Iran.

Other active projects for DARPA include Meshworm, an earthwormlike robot, and Proto 2, a thought-controlled prosthetic arm. They also invented the Internet, and an early version of Google Earth (in 1978!), and ArcLight missiles that can kill anyone at any time, from anywhere.

According to National Defense magazine, which apparently exists, DARPA announced "the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel which will be the largest unmanned surface vehicle ever built at 130-feet long… It will be christened in April in Portland, Oregon, and then begin to demonstrate its long-range capabilities over 18 months in cooperation with the Office of Naval Research and the Space and Naval Systems Warfare Command."

DARPA deputy director Steve Walker laid out the possibilities for the assembled national security press: "Imagine an unmanned surface vessel following all the laws of the sea on its own and operating with manned surface and unmanned underwater vehicles."


Military blog Fox Trot Alpha, which calls the ACTUV by the much cooler-sounding name of Sea Hunter, explains how the drone ship would track subs and, in their words, "change naval warfare forever":

Sea Hunter will go about its mission by heading to sea and searching for underwater contacts autonomously. Once it has found something or is directed to a contact by another asset nearby, it will sprint to that location and attempt to lock onto the submerged contact with its on-board sensors by continuously pinging that same contact with active sonar while using other sensors to collect data on it. Once its high-frequency sonar has the target in its sights, the only way to break its lock would be by somehow eluding using decoys or other tactics, both of which Sea Hunter will be programmed to notice and disregard, or by outright destroying it. Think of it as the Navy’s pitbull, once it latches on it you may have to kill it before it lets go.

So it's kind of a creep. But a really, really impressive one.