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AUSA 2023: US Army eyes autonomous vessels for contested logistics in Indo-Pacific

The US Army Frank S Besson (LSV 1)-class logistics support vessel Lt Gen William B Bunker (LSV-4) approaches a slip at Waipio Point, Hawaii, on 3 June 2017. (US DoD)

US Army planners with the service's newest cross-functional teams are considering the development of a new class of small, unmanned surface vessels (USVs) to handle resupply and logistics for US armed forces in the Indo-Pacific region.

US Army Colonel Shane Upton, director of the Contested Logistics Cross Functional Team (CLCFT) said service leaders were exploring concepts leveraging “small autonomous vessels”, as a way to address distance challenges tied to the logistics mission in the Indo-Pacific.

The USV envisioned by the CLCFT will be one “that does not have to dock … that does not have to go to shore” for extended periods of time, Col Upton said during a briefing on the service's efforts in human-machine teaming, held during the Association of the US Army (AUSA) 2023 symposium.

The long loiter time being sought from the new small USV concept platform will assist in ship-to-ship logistics in the hotly contested waters of the Indo-Pacific.

The idea being that the small autonomous ships will be able to cut down on resupply time for US warships in the region, since they can be at sea for longer durations, compared with traditional, manned logistics ships.

The army's manned logistics support vessels (LSVs) have been routinely used to support service-led exercises and combat operations across the globe. Most recently, LSVs were used to carry M1A1 tanks from Exercise ‘Talisman Sabre 2023' to Exercise ‘Super Garuda Shield 2023' in Indonesia.

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