Last week off the California coast, drones on the surface and in the air chased down a target barge and relayed, via satellite, its location to the destroyer USS John Finn.
The idea echos the abandoned arsenal ship concept of the early 1990s which was similar but would have been manned. The goal is to bring lots of firepower to bear at a minimum cost.
The drone ships would be defended against hostile force threats like enemy missiles, enemy submarines, and enemy aircraft, thorough resources elsewhere in the fleet.
Meanwhile, there is also an effort underway to outfit the Navy's new Constellation-class frigates, its amphibious transport ships, 31 of its littoral combat ships in the next two years (15 of which will also be outfitted with long delayed anti-submarine modules and 15 of which will be outfitted with long delayed anti-mine warfare modules), coast guard cutters, and even modified Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (an armored replacement for Humvees and the MRAP vehicles) called NMESIS with either VLS missile tubes, or a new class of missile called a "Naval Strike Missile" with a 115 mile range with a 500 pound warhead, similar to but smaller than the VLS, to dramatically increase their capacity to effective take on enemy warships or coastal targets.
There are also efforts underway to equip these ships with active defenses such as lasers that can be used against incoming missiles, drones, aircraft, naval guns, artillery shells and smaller armed boats, decoy launchers, and anti-aircraft missiles similar to the man portable anti-aircraft missiles like the Stinger or the M-SHORAD systems used on its Stryker armored personnel carriers, which are in use in the U.S. Army.
(The three Zumwalt class destroyers are being considered seriously as a platform for a new class of hypersonic missiles starting in 2025 in lieu of its 155mm naval gun that never had any ammunition designed for it.)
There are other solutions to the same problem of how to increase the firepower at the "tip of the spear" without going into the battlefield in what amounts to an RV which is basically what a traditional manned surface combatant warship does.
But, this one is simple, cheap, could be effective, and deserves more attention with any modifications that further examination of the concept brings to light.