An underwater drone at the Hong Kong Eco Expo Asia on December 10, 2022.

An underwater drone at the Hong Kong Eco Expo Asia on December 10, 2022. Vernon Yuen / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Senators Want to Know More About Threat of Underwater Drones

SASC’s draft 2024 defense policy bill would fund a study.

What threat might undersea drones pose to U.S. military bases? Senators want to know.

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, approved by the committee Thursday, calls for “an analysis of incidents of suspected or confirmed intrusions by unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) on or near U.S. military installations,” according to the bill’s executive summary.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., chairman of the seapower subcommittee, told reporters Friday the bill’s language is not a response to a specific incident.

“We know the technology. I mean, we have such technologies. We know how they can be used,” Kaine said. “It would be kind of malpractice not to make sure that our own assets are protected.”

U.S. troops overseas have already been attacked by aerial drones wielded by Iranian-backed groups in Iraq and Syria. Ukrainian forces are also using aerial drones to find and destroy Russian positions. And Kaine noted how the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon earlier this year showed that detection systems were not looking for slow-moving objects.  

The U.S. Navy is pursuing its own underwater drones for a variety of missions, including mining and surveillance. The service is also looking to use submarines as drone “motherships,” deploying aquatic robots via torpedo tubes.

The executive summary did not say when the report would have to be submitted, or who would conduct the analysis.