Navy Unveils UUV Master Plan - New Capabilities, New Vehicle Classes
by Hunter Keeter

(above) A Battle-Space Preparation Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (BPAUV) is prepared for launch from the High-Speed Vessel Swift (HSV-2) during exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2004. The BPAUV, a program being developed by the Office of Naval Research and the Program Executive Office for Littoral and Mine Warfare, is aimed at developing UUVs capable of performing a variety of tasks in the littoral.

Building upon a vision first published in 2000, the U.S. Navy has released an updated Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) Master Plan. The new master plan offers detailed insight into nine
capabilities that analysts have associated with UUVs: intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; mine countermeasures; anti-submarine warfare; inspection and identification; oceanography; communication and navigation networking; payload delivery; information operations; and time-critical strike.

The Navy has conceived four classes of UUVs, each offering advantages in the nine capability areas. The four classes include man-portable vehicles weighing less than 100 pounds; lightweight vehicles of 500 pounds; heavyweight vehicles of 3,000 pounds; and large vehicles weighing 20,000 pounds. These classes of UUVs will evolve as workhorses of the fleet, deploying and retrieving sensors and other devices; gathering, transmitting, and acting on all types of information; and engaging submarine, surface, air, and even land targets.

“UUVs and the mission capabilities these systems will deliver are integral components of naval transformation,” said CAPT Paul D. Ims, the Navy’s unmanned vehicles program manager, with the Program Executive Office for Littoral and Mine Warfare. “The UUV Master Plan outlines a pathway ahead that will develop and expand technologies critical to this nation’s ability to overcome the broad
area-denial threat.”

As a guide for the military and its industry partners, the UUV Master Plan provides a strong case for a balanced investment in technologies to reduce acquisition risk and speed the development of new capabilities. Key technologies include energy-efficient power supplies and reliable autonomous behavior and navigation algorithms. The plan also alludes to investment opportunities in sensors, communications, and data processing payload packages.

Photo caption follows
(above) REMUS is an example of commercially -developed UUV technology that has been applied to military operations. In 2003 off the Iraqi port city, Um Qasr, the U.S. Navy employed REMUS vehicles alongside Marine Mammal Systems during mine countermeasures operations.
(below) An artist’s representation of the concept of operations for the Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System. Designed for launch and recovery from a submarine’s 21-inch diameter torpedo tubes, the LMRS will conduct clandestine mine countermeasures and act as a fleet training and experimentation asset for further development of more complex UUVs with greater autonomy and mission payload flexibility.

Looking to the future, the Navy will expand the roles of unmanned systems, teaming with other platforms and systems in mine warfare operations and other high-risk activities associated with shaping the battle space. For example, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, UUVs worked alongside Marine Mammal Systems and other coalition-force assets to clear mines from the approach lanes of the Iraqi port, Um Qasr. Newly maturing technologies may provide more advanced UUVs with the ability to detect, classify, and neutralize mines from a single vehicle.

Unmanned systems across all operational domains are becoming mainstays for building a joint-force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance architecture. Data acquired from this architecture are key elements of Chief of Naval Operations ADM Vern Clark’s concept for “persistent, pervasive” knowledge dominance in the littoral battle space and beyond. UUVs provide critical information for naval force protection and coastal and harbor monitoring, and in the future may be equipped to detect and localize weapons of mass destruction.

Photo caption previously stated

UUVs increasingly will support anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations, according to the new master plan. Various types of vehicles may be employed to “hold at risk” an adversary’s submarine operations–by sensing and cueing joint-force and coalition platforms and weapon systems, as well as by providing long-term area monitoring. In the future, UUVs may be called upon to perform submarine track and trail – and perhaps even to attack targets.

The Navy is also studying alternative offensive roles for UUVs, such as emitting jamming or false data transmissions into an adversary’s command, control, and communications network. The UUV Master Plan also envisions the eventual development of UUVs armed with land-attack weapons to provide time-critical strike capability.

The plan highlights another important, inherent capability of unmanned systems: that of serving as communication and navigation network nodes (CN3). The significance of this capability lies in the UUV’s ability to act as a bridge interface between above-water radio communications, high-bandwidth, long-range networks, and lower-bandwidth, below-water transmission systems.

As CN3, unmanned vehicles may provide additional redundancy for GPS and other position location systems. UUVs may also relay communication signals from various emitters–such as local radios and satellites–providing connectivity for forces operating clandestinely or in remote areas. As networking nodes, sharing and relaying data, UUVs may assist the Navy’s submarine force in achieving communication capability “at speed and depth.”

With unmanned systems gaining importance across all domains, the Navy’s 2004 UUV Master Plan details the road ahead for defining the capabilities of four new classes of undersea vehicles, and the operational contributions these vehicles bring to enhance the nation’s maritime dominance. Of particular interest to the science and technology community and to industry, the new plan also evaluates areas for continued investment in areas that will realize the once-futuristic vision of UUV operations.

The UUV Master Plan can be found online at

Mr. Keeter is an analyst with Anteon Corporation in Washington, D.C


Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005