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Overlord unmanned surface vessels programme transferred to US Navy

The US Defense Department's Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) officially transitioned the Ghost Fleet Overlord Program and its unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to the US Navy (USN) Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) on 3 March.

SCO initiated the Ghost Fleet Overlord Program in 2018 to accelerate the navy's adoption of unmanned and autonomous systems through a partnership to convert large, commercially available vessels to autonomous operation.

As part of that conversion, USN officials said, designers installed perception and autonomy systems, automated and improved ship system reliability for extended missions, and developed the command control and communications architecture.

The transition enables the navy “and the larger team of operators, warfare centres, and industry to not miss a beat, continue advancing this technology, and provide a real capability sooner”, said Jay Dryer, SCO director.

The programme's objective under SCO was achieved through long endurance transits and participation in fleet exercises, USN said in a statement, adding that fleet exercises demonstrated the feasibility of USVs and, specifically, the ability to host and employ modular payloads through a realistic set of concepts of operations (CONOPS).

SCO used Other Transaction Authority (OTA) agreements with industry-led development teams given the increasing commercial use of autonomous technology.

The office developed two prototype surface vessels – Nomad and Ranger – to serve as test beds for the navy's Medium and Large Unmanned Surface Vessel programmes of record. The two USVs took part in multiple fleet-level exercises and demonstrations, travelled 28,982 n miles in autonomous mode, and tested numerous payloads.

The USN plans to acquire two additional Overlord USV prototypes for continued experimentation and development.

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