The US Navy is eyeing a large-scale introduction of robotic surface ships of various sizes as a counter to China’s boosted capabilities. The vision, however, relies on not-yet-proven technologies and may even be a bluff.

The world’s largest navy feels threatened by Beijing, whose advancements in anti-ship missile technologies and large investments in its own naval assets over the past years mean that a conflict near China’s shores may not end in US favor. Among the Pentagon’s plans to deal with the problem is to switch away from larger ships in favor of smaller ones and make scores of them robotic.

A drone ship would be cheaper to build and operate since it doesn’t need all the facilities for the meatbags and the drones may be spread over wider areas.

The US admirals seem confident enough in this vision to request $629 million in 2020 for research and development and want to spend a total of $4.5 billion on the efforts though 2024, according to a recent report by the Congressional Research Service.

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