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Large unmanned vehicles will not be counted in USN 355-ship fleet

29 June 2017

Sean Stackley, acting secretary of the US Navy (USN), told Congress that large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) would not be counted in USN assessments of force structure towards achieving its 355-ship fleet goal.

XL UUVs such as this large-displacement UUV will not be counted to achieve the USN's 355-ship goal, although the capabilities such platforms provide will be considered as force enablers extending the reach of other elements in the battle force. (USN)XL UUVs such as this large-displacement UUV will not be counted to achieve the USN's 355-ship goal, although the capabilities such platforms provide will be considered as force enablers extending the reach of other elements in the battle force. (USN)

Stackley stated on 15 June 2017 that although the extra-large UUV (XL UUV) was an "extremely impressive capability" and "fairly mature technology", the USN was not planning on counting it or the large displacement UUV within the USN force structure assessment as released in December 2016. Stackley also said that the USN does plan to leverage their capabilities to support other USN platforms in the decades it will take to achieve 355 ships, and that the USN was exploring how to employ such UUVs inside its concept of operations (CONOPS).

For instance the XL UUV is a platform without specific capabilities, and the USN is working on deciding what missions were suitable for it, what that would means in terms of installing capabilities onboard platforms, and when to install those capabilities.

"These capabilities are within our reach today, and they do a great job in terms of filling gaps that we have today with our smaller-sized navy," Stackley said, "and to do missions that we cannot do with our submarines and our surface ships.

"So no, they do not add to the 355[-ship navy]."

Stackley noted that the USN also anticipated capabilities beyond intelligence assessment and was already working on CONOPS that "go along that line".

"You can see them delivering payloads to different areas," Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told the congressional lawmakers, highlighting that UUVs, combined with underwater payloads, provide access to a number of missions " well beyond intelligence".

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