Sea Platforms

US Navy ramps up development of naval unmanned systems

14 November 2018

The MDUSV prototype arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam on 31 October. Source: USN

The US Navy (USN) is accelerating its development of naval unmanned systems through programmatic changes and contractual tools meant to field such systems as soon as possible, according to Captain Pete Small, programme manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems.

For example, the (USN) has started the Payload Integration Group (PIG), Capt Small noted on 8 November during the Naval Submarine League Annual 36th Symposium and Industry Update.

The PIG is tasked with developing, maintaining, and overseeing and "a standard, rapid and cost-effective process" for determining what the best payloads may be for the various naval unmanned platforms, Capt Small said.

"We want to streamline efforts across multiple organisations," he said, and find ways to enhance commonalities for unmanned surface and underwater systems, as well as develop modular payloads for those systems.

The navy wants to develop interface standards, he said, to integrate unmanned and manned platforms.

The USN also has developed an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) family-of-systems contracting tool to provide "wide access to key industry providers" for prototyping and technology development across the portfolio of systems to be inserted in hot production lines.

Companies can be awarded contracts for various developmental tasks, he said, in areas such as payloads, hull, propulsion, sensors, and storage or conversion of energy.

While the USN looks to enhance its future naval unmanned systems development, the service remains on course for a current portfolio of programmes, Capt Small said.

For example, the service in 2018 kicked off a stronger medium unmanned surface vehicle (USC) effort to leverage programmes already being operated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), such as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV) prototype Sea Hunter , which arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam 31 October - demonstrating the MDUSV can deploy for bluewater operations.

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