June 27, 2019

The Navy Will Soon Have a New Weapon to Kill Battleships or Submarines
The Navy is moving fast to build new medium- and large-sized armed surface attack drones able to hunt submarines, surveil the air and sea and launch offensive attacks across air, surface and undersea domains.Called the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MUSV) and Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) - the new platforms are described by Navy developers as “anti-surface and strike warfare” vessels.While the new surface drones are being engineered for a range of missions, to include anti-submarine sonar applications, large drone fleet command-and-control and sweeping ISR (Intelligence, Reconnaissance, Surveillance) -- Navy Unmanned Systems Program Manager Capt. Pete Small said that the drones will “bring in Navy program of record weapons systems to incorporate into commercially-derived modular craft.”The Navy is already asking industry for specific configurations through a formal Request for Proposal this year and plans new steps with the LUSV next year.“We plan to deploy them in numbers,” Small said recently at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space symposium.While preparing to arm the maritime drones with weapons, Small explained that the initial focus for the new, larger surface drones will be autonomy, endurance, precision navigation and command-and-control. Of greatest significance, Small explained, is that the prospect of large numbers of interwoven, armed surface drones introduced an entirely new sphere of Tactics, Techniques and Procedures. These surface drones, operating in tandem with surface ships, undersea drones, aerial drones and submarines, promise to change the character of maritime warfare.“Over the next several years we are working through those TTPs on how we are going to employ them,” Small said.Small added that the fast-emerging MUSVs and LUSVs are expected to figure prominently in the Navy’s ongoing “analysis of alternatives” regarding how best to create its “Future Combatant Force” -- a concept articulated in the services’ “Maintaining Maritime Superiority 2.0.”The Navy has partnered with Textron Systems to plan demonstrations aimed at refining requirements for arming surface drones, assess the technology, perform force protection exercises and replicate mock combat scenarios.The exact weapons being assessed by Textron and the Navy are not available for security reasons, but they are being integrated to perform a range of mission sets, developers said. These missions include things like perimeter security, wherein unmanned armed surface vessels are forward-deployed to identify and attack approaching targets, all while protecting larger ships such as Littoral Combat Ships or even Carrier Strike Groups and Amphibious Ready Groups.



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