News | Oct 10, 2019

Sink or swim? US Navy codes SWARM-Tac decision support for hostile fast-attack craft

U.S. companies can now evaluate and license the Navy's software

News Article Image of Sink or swim? US Navy codes SWARM-Tac decision support for hostile fast-attack craft

Iranian IRGC fast-attack craft fire missiles near the Strait of Hormuz.

via Wikimeda

The U.S. Navy has patented a new software system called SWARM-Tac that can help ships decide to evade or destroy swarms of small boats like those used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy in the Persian Gulf.

Matt Ward, researcher at the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Port Hueneme Division, developed the SWARM-Tac software, which is now protected by U.S. Patent 10,281,281.

“Some of our adversaries use lots of small boats to kind of harass our ships,” Ward said. “While we have a single, high-capability ship, they will have a lot of these small craft that may not have as [powerful] weapons, but just a significant number of them. What [we’re] trying to do is use machine learning and artificial intelligence to generate tactics for the ship to maximize its probability of success against that type of an attack.”

SWARM-Tac offers suggestions on how a Navy ship might evade a swarm attack. (C. Todd Lopez/DOD screenshot)

In April 2017, the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan fired warning shots and had to make dangerous turns to avoid an Iranian fast-attack boat that was harassing it.

But it’s not always possible to turn 9,000-ton destroyers or cruisers on a dime, so SWARM-Tac brings in artificial intelligence algorithms to the decision, analyzing speed, radar, geography, and available lethal and non-lethal weapons. The graphical user interface then gives sailors options, i.e., evade, disable, or destroy, and the probability for success of each.

Ward said that SWARM-Tac is still under development but an at-sea test conducted in 2018 produced “pretty good results.”

In coordination with the Navy’s technology transfer office in Port Hueneme, TechLink’s Marti Elder is helping private companies evaluate the technology and understand the patent licensing process.

“There are military and potentially non-military applications for SWARM-Tac,” Elder said. “The software has value and U.S. companies can now license it.”

Business inquiries can be sent to Marti Elder at or she can be reached by telephone at 406-586-7621.