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The U.S. naval fleet of the future may one day include submarines without a sailor from bow to stern that prowl the depths of the ocean, navigating mine-infested waters to gather intelligence or even clandestinely drop explosives.
The military views autonomous vehicles as a way to accomplish missions deemed too risky, mundane or expensive for human crews. While aerial drones have largely been tasked with these types of duties for more than a decade, the Navy is now increasingly funding robotic ships and undersea drones to complement the work done by its crewed vessels.
With slick sides and sharp angles, the Michael Monsoor and its sister ship Zumwalt cut a distinct silhouette along the waters of San Diego.
Unlike a nearby aircraft carrier whose radar juts into the air, the Monsoor's composite material deckhouse is polygonal and covered with material that can absorb radar waves and increase the destroyer's stealthiness. Its "tumblehome" hull looks like something you'd see on a ship built before World War I.
Make no mistake, the Monsoor guided-missile destroyer — named after Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor, who grew up in Garden Grove and died in 2006 saving the lives of three other SEALS — is one of the U.S. Navy's most technologically advanced ships. It was commissioned Saturday in San Diego.
But developing that cutting-edge technology has proved more difficult than expected, and its deployment has been complicated by a strategic pivot in the ship's mission.
In the latest frightening example of cockpit problems in high-performance military aircraft, the Navy is investigating a recent incident in which the cockpit temperature of an EA-18G Growler reportedly plunged to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Ice coated flight instruments and windows, forcing the plane’s two-person crew to land using a Garmin watch and spoken instructions from air controllers.
The sleek aircraft, really more rocket than plane, dropped from the wing of a B-52 before shooting through the sky above Point Mugu Sea Range off the California coast, leaving a long, white contrail in its wake.