Nearly Undetectable Submarines Threaten U.S. Ships and Shipping

July 20, 2016 Leidos Editorial Team

Anti-Submarine warfare continuous trail unmanned vehicle (ACTUV)

The Problem

$1.8 Trillon of maritime commerce at risk

A Trillion-Dollar Threat
Relatively cheap and virtually silent, diesel-electric submarines are quickly becoming one of the biggest threats to naval operations and a $1.8 trillion commercial shipping industry. Detecting and tracking these stealthy subs presents a huge challenge even for the U.S. Navy, the world's most technologically advanced fleet.


75 decibels quieter than a humpback whale

Too Quiet to Detect
Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is “like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” says Rear Admiral Frank Brennan, commander of the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command.


377 diesel electric subs estimated worldwide

Underwater Arms Race
Price tags ranging from $200-$300 million put diesel-electric subs within reach of smaller, volatile countries. In fact, Russia has been selling diesel-electric subs to buoy its shipyards, triggering what some are calling an undersea arms race. Reportedly, Algeria has ordered two, Venezuela is expecting five, and Indonesia will have six subs by 2020. Iran claims to have a fleet of 17 diesel-electric subs.


The Solution

"Leidos developed an unarmed, unmanned vessel to shadow diesel-electric subs for months across thousands of miles of ocean and chase them out of strategic waters."

A cross-disciplinary Leidos team leveraged insights and innovation from across the organization to develop the concept. Our analytics experts programmed logic for identifying other vessels and predicting their behavior. And, our mechanical and maritime engineers designed the vessel itself.

Called the ACTUV, the unmanned boat can be deployed for months and track underwater threats for thousands of miles without human contact. It keeps our troops out of harm’s way and also minimizes risks to the maritime ecosystem by limiting the use of sonar.

A comprehensive solution, the ACTUV doesn’t just answer one of the biggest challenges the Navy faces today. It launches an entirely new class of unmanned vessel with vast possibilities for the future.

new class of unmanned vessel


Our Values in Action

Holistic Approach
A Cohesive Team. A Comprehensive Solution.

Our cross-disciplinary team recognized that the issue wasn’t just reliably tracking these underwater threats, but pursuing subs with speed and tenacity for several months.

We leveraged insights and innovation from across the organization. Hydro-acoustics expertise for tracking; pattern recognition and modeling for unmanned navigation; and engineering know-how for design—it all came together in the robot sub hunter dubbed the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle, or ACTUV.


Impactful Analysis
Navigating by the Numbers

Data serves as the bridge on the unmanned vessel. The ACTUV uses analysis and pattern recognition to follow the nautical "rules of the road" to avoid other boats.

The ACTUV is also "smart", using collected data and sophisticated logic to identify other vessels, determine the intent of the craft it is tracking, and adjust its mission based on weather, geography, and external updates.


Human Point-of-View
Safe for Sailors

The ACTUV can be deployed up to 90 days without ever missing home. Meanwhile, the operator who remotely steers it out of the harbor can safely enjoy a hot meal and a warm bed every night.

Though the crew of the diesel-electric sub isn't so lucky, the ACTUV's shadowing offers a non-lethal deterrent that simply chases the sub back to its home port.


Key Results

Unmanned NavigationTenacious & sturdy, can track subs for 60-90 dayssafer detection, minimize the risk to marine mammals



• Leidos Participates In Christening Of DARPA's Innovative, Highly Autonomous Prototype Unmanned Vessel

• Leidos Completes At-Sea Testing of Prototype Maritime Autonomy System

• Leidos Prototype Maritime System Completes First Self-Guided Voyage

• Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel Under Construction, At-Sea Testing Expected by 2015

• SAIC Awarded Prime Contract By Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency


Martitime autonomy


The Leidos Editorial Team consists of communications and marketing employees, contributing partner organizations, and dedicated freelance designers, editors, and writers.

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