Monday, March 18, 2019

Build a Few Unmanned Surface Vehicles, Test a Little, Learn a Lot

As our friend Dave Larter reported late last week, the Navy seems to be moving forward in a smart way to see how much of the theory of operating large surface ships in an unmanned manner can actually be operationalized.

I have questions, a lot of questions, but this seems like a good start. 

Let's see what happens.
The Navy raised eyebrows in its budget rollout Tuesday when it requested $400 million for two large unmanned surface vessels to be purchased in 2020, with 10 total to be purchased across the five-year projection known as the future year defense program. But it was not immediately clear what exactly the Navy was buying two of, since no program of record exists for a large unmanned surface vessel (or LUSV).
In total, the service has programmed $2.7 billion across the FYDP. And on Wednesday evening, the Navy dropped a request for information from industry seeking to “determine if sources exist that are capable of satisfying the Navy’s anticipated program requirement for Large Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSV).”
According the 2017 draft plan, Overlord is seeking a ship that can do virtually everything a larger manned vessel can do – obey the international rules of the road for navigation, plan a route for a mission, communicate with other ships (manned or otherwise) in a task force – and do it with very little interaction with sailors once it gets underway.

“The Overlord program will develop core autonomy, communications, and C2 components and field prototype USVs capable of being seamlessly operable with the fleet,” the draft says. "The Overlord program will have built in redundancy in all critical hardware and software systems. The program will involve integration and test of payloads for [electronic warfare], [anit-surface warfare], and [strike warfare].”

The program, in keeping with SCO’s modus operandi, places an emphasis on using and adapting existing vehicles and technologies, the draft says, and “will take advantage of commercial technologies, integrate existing vehicle designs, and mature existing autonomy capabilities to accomplish its goals.”

The draft lays out a two-phase plan that starts with a 12-month phase I, which asks industry to demonstrate a vehicle that could meet the requirements laid out in the draft, including a range of 4,500 nautical miles, “capable of operating in at least Sea State 5, with at least 80,000 lbs. of payload capacity and 75 kW of 450V, 60 Hz, three-phase AC power reserved for payloads."
I am encouraged by this in that the usual suspects will overhype this for their own uses, institutional Navy is not. This is testing and evaluating as it appears it should be done.

Quite encouraging.

No comments: