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US Navy hones USV operational and technological concepts

Recent transits by Ghost Fleet Overlord unmanned surface vessels (USVs) have proven and honed operational and technological concepts for the USV development, US naval officials associated with the programme noted in a 13 July media briefing.

Proving those concepts could go a long way toward allaying lawmakers' fears about US Navy (USN) unmanned vessel development and make long-term unmanned acquisition plans more palatable, according to a recent Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

“In marking up the navy's proposed FY [fiscal year] 2020 and FY 2021 budgets, the congressional defense committees expressed concerns over whether the navy's acquisition strategies provided enough time to adequately develop concepts of operations and key technologies for these large UVs (unmanned vessels), particularly the LUSV (large unmanned surface vessel), and included legislative provisions intended to address these concerns,” CRS said in its report, ‘Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress', released on 6 July.

“In response to these mark-ups,” CRS pointed out, “the navy has restructured its acquisition strategy for the LUSV programme so as to comply with these legislative provisions and provide more time for developing operational concepts and key technologies before entering into serial production of deployable units.”

The Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and the USN acknowledged in June they had conducted a second long-range autonomous transit with a Ghost Fleet Overlord USV from the US Gulf Coast, passing through the Panama Canal, to the West Coast.

The unmanned vessel, Nomad , travelled 4,421 n miles in autonomous mode for 98% of the time. The first Ghost Fleet Overlord vessel, Ranger , completed a similar transit in October 2020. Both USVs passed through the Panama Canal while in manual mode.

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