A US Department of Defense (DoD) unmanned surface vessel has travelled a distance of more than 4,700 nautical miles, mostly without human intervention, achieving a key milestone in the Ghost Fleet Overlord programme.

After completing the transit, the vessel participated in the exercise Dawn Blitz, where it also operated most of the time autonomously.

The Ghost Fleet Overlord programme forms a part of an effort to expedite the US Navy’s plans to incorporate autonomous vessels within its fleet to improve the reach of manned vessels.

Under the plan, the US DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) modified commercial ocean-going vessels by integrating commercially-available and government-provided equipment to create unmanned surface vessels.

Commenting on the latest transit test, SCO director Jay Dryer said: “This is a historic milestone for the program and the navy.

“It represents what SCO does best: integrate mature technologies to accelerate service priorities and create new capabilities for our warfighters.”

The US Navy plans to incorporate several such autonomous vessels from different classes of ships to meet multiple mission requirements which include reconnaissance and offensive operations.

Navy Program Manager for USVs captain Pete Small said: “Our close partnership with SCO on the Overlord programme is accelerating the technology demonstration, CONOPs development and operational command and control of unmanned surface vessels in direct alignment with the navy’s plans.”

The SCO is slated to deliver its two Ghost Fleet Overlord prototypes to the Surface Development Squadron One by the end of fiscal year 2021.

Separately, the US Navy is acquiring two additional Ghost Fleet Overlord prototypes.