The ships form part of a 2018 initiative called Ghost Fleet Overlord designed to add drone capabilities to the US Navy. It’s part of an effort to increase funding for the US Armed Forces as a whole as China’s naval fleet has surpassed that of the United States in size.
Remotely-operated vessels were sent to Japan for war games designed to increase US readiness in the region as China’s rise creates tensions in the West.
Prototype unmanned ships arrived at a port near Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday to participate in naval exercises designed to test war and reconnaissance capabilities amidst worries over China’s growing naval fleet.
The vessels arrived in Yokosuka as part of Integrated Battle Problem (IBP) 23.2, an exercise designed to test drone use in the region.
“One destroyer and two USVs [unmanned surface vessels] could replace three destroyers,” claimed US Navy Commander Jeremiah Daley from aboard one of the ships, which is being tested with an onboard crew while in its prototype phase. “It’s a force multiplier.”
China claims its fleet is designed for defensive purposes, and some analysts question whether it possesses the “blue-water navy” capabilities that allow US forces to project sustained power far from domestic shores.
Aerial drone use has been increasing for a number of years, with the US tapping on the technology more frequently in the Middle East as the country seeks to monitor Iran.
China’s power is on the rise as the nation of 1.4 billion people surpassed the United States in purchasing power parity (PPP) nearly a decade ago. China’s military hasn’t seen significant action since the brief Sino-Vietnamese War more than 40 years ago, but tensions have been provoked with neighbors recently by the country’s expansive claims in the South China Sea. Some worry the growing world power could invade Taiwan militarily.
The territory of Taiwan was integrated into China in 1683. Kuomintang forces fled there after their loss in the Chinese Civil War which brought the Communist Party of China to power–US Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower raised the specter of nuclear force being used against the country if Mao Zedong’s military crossed the Taiwan Strait to consolidate Communist control. Since then Taiwan has been self-governing, although China considers it a renegade province and opposes further moves towards independence for the island chain.
Annual US defense spending has been on the increase over the last decade, with China cited as a primary threat. The United States devotes more to military expenditures than the next 10 countries combined.