The South China Morning Post reported on July 23rd that the Chinese Academy of Sciences is pursuing designs for a fleet of unmanned autonomous underwater submarines. These submersibles would be able to take on a docket of missions, from whale tracking to anti-carrier kamikaze ops. And the ace up China's sleeve to make this a reality is artificial intelligence.
The use of unmanned underwater vehicles — UUVs — has been ongoing since the mid-’60s. However, the large majority of these drones, including the U.S.’s, have been controlled remotely by a human operator at the surface or in another sub. Maintaining control over a submerged drone is difficult under the best circumstances. But China’s fearless embrace of a possible robot uprising has conquered all that, supposedly. With AI at the helm, the limitations of remote human controls are theoretically eliminated.
The downsides, though, are many. An AI-driven sub could go rogue and attack a tanker or a random blue whale. Perhaps it could surface and fire on a British frigate to incite a war for TV ratings, like in a certain James Bond film. But even if you don’t speculate on the apocalyptic possibilities, you have to admit that self-driving drone subs could moot maritime law awfully fast, providing new legal challenges, just like the headaches aerial drones have created for aviation authorities.
CTG 56.1 conducts Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Training in the 5th Fleet AOR.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonah Stepanik/Released
Some of those murky legal waters washed up in 2016, when the Chinese Navy seized a (remotely piloted) U.S. underwater drone in the South China Sea; the wayward unmanned vehicle was eventually released, but the possibilities for mishap and mayhem remain almost limitless if a fleet of armed submarines starts trawling around the world’s oceans and something goes wrong.
Army Sgt. Jeremy Seals died on Oct. 31, 2018, following a protracted battle with stomach cancer. His widow, Cheryl Seals is mounting a lawsuit alleging that military care providers missed her husband's cancer. Task & Purpose photo illustration by Aaron Provost
The widow of a soldier whose stomach cancer was allegedly overlooked by Army doctors for four years is mounting a medical malpractice lawsuit against the military, but due to a decades-old legal rule known as the Feres Doctrine, her case will likely be dismissed before it ever goes to trial.
The first grenade core was accidentally discovered on Nov. 28, 2018, by Virginia Department of Historic Resources staff examining relics recovered from the Betsy, a British ship scuttled during the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. The grenade's iron jacket had dissolved, but its core of black powder remained potent. Within a month or so, more than two dozen were found. (Virginia Department of Historic Resources via The Virginian-Pilot)
In an uh-oh episode of historic proportions, hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War recently and repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital city.
Wait – they had hand grenades in the Revolutionary War? Indeed. Hollow iron balls, filled with black powder, outfitted with a fuse, then lit and thrown.
And more than two dozen have been sitting in cardboard boxes at the Department of Historic Resources, undetected for 30 years.
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.