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