US Navy’s CLAWS Program Aims To Arm Autonomous Submarines With Live Weapons

By Benjamin Minick|@TimberwolfP
03/13/20 AT 5:20 AM IBT

efense giant Boeing has been developing the Orca autonomous submarines for the U.S. Navy purposes for quite some time now. These are projected as soon-to-be replacements for the current autonomous submarines used by the Navy.

These submarines are being designed to handle automated tasks and free up sailors.  

The Navy has been relatively secretive about the CLAWS program, including its actual purpose and its budget. On paper, it was allocated $26 million in 2020 and an additional $23 million next year. That sounds like a relatively small budget for a defense department project of this nature. But there are other discrepancies; very little is known about the program, including what its acronym means. 

Here is what we do know: According to a report by The Daily Mail, the subs may be outfitted with up to 12 torpedoes or other munitions. In essence, this means that these fully autonomous crafts may have the power to kill indiscriminately. This presents a considerable problem on so many levels. Apart from the obvious ethical question of allowing a machine to kill without human control, there is a big question over unwanted and rapid escalation arising out of such machines acting on their own. 

Still, the United States is not alone in this quest as China is expected to have similar technology deployed around the world by the end of 2020. The difficulty for the U.S. is that they may end up being two years behind the Chinese, and perhaps Russia, as they are not expected to have the technology readily available until 2022. According to the report, for the Chinese craft, any kill orders would have to be authorized by a commanding officer. 

Speaking under condition of anonymity, a source close to the program told the International Business Times that the program runs much deeper than what appears on the surface. “Like it or not, this is going to be the future of maritime warfare, and it is better for America to be ahead of the game instead of behind the eight-ball.” 

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