An unmanned vessel from the US Navy’s Ghost Fleet Overlord program recently launched an SM-6 missile from a modular launcher installed aboard the ship.
The Pentagon released video footage of the event on September 3, without providing additional details.
The vessel that performed the launch is called USV Ranger, and is one of two unmanned ships supporting the Ghost Fleet experimentation program that is run by the US Navy and the Strategic Capabilities Office.
While the launch is the latest in a series of milestones that the program has achieved so far, it does come as a bit of a surprise, as plans to conduct such launches had not been made public before.
Prior milestones include an autonomous transit from the Gulf Coast to the coast of California, as well as autonomous participation in a major navy exercise.
Ghost Fleet Overlord is currently in its second phase, which began in September 2019 and focuses on the integration of government-furnished command-and-control systems and payloads and more complex and challenging naval operations experimentation.
Phase II is being conducted with the same vessels and industry teams that took part in phase I and will conclude in early 2022, at which point both Ghost Fleet Overlord vessels will transition to the Navy for further experimentation.
According to the video released by the Pentagon, USV Ranger was fitted with a four missile modular containerized SM-6 launcher for the evolution. The SM-6 is a dual-capability missile that can be used for either air defense or ballistic missile defense. The missile is also said to have a secondary strike capability, providing the opportunity to hit fixed targets on land and even ships at sea. What is more, the army is also working on a ground-launched version of the missile.