SOF - Special Operations

SOF explores unmanned naval platform

20th April 2018 - 18:00 GMT | by Andrew White in London

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The US Navy has conducted its latest demonstration of Textron Systems’ Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) as it considers a variety of concepts of operation (CONOPS), tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to support special operations forces.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) led trial, conducted at the Potomac River Test Range on 28th March, was used to initiate discussions regarding the weaponization of the CUSV.

According to Chris Nerney, technical program manager for unmanned systems at NSWCDD, the first project being considered for the CUSV is the integration of Longbow Hellfire Missiles as part of a Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Mission Module (SEWMM).

When networked to a battle management system (BMS), the SEWMM will provide a direct and indirect autonomous fire capability for special operations units. According to NSWCDD, a live fire missile test is scheduled to take place in 2019 following the integration of machine guns later in 2018.

“We are creating a modular surface and expeditionary warfare payload with a gun and a missile weapon system to be evaluated for integration onto the CUSV,” explained NSWCDD technical lead for Ship-to-Shore Precision Engagement Integration and Prototype, Kevin Green.

“This payload could enable warfighters to counter fast attack craft and fast inshore attack craft and it could provide ship-to-shore fire support for expeditionary and special operations forces. It also gives us a baseline development effort to operate and perform further research and development,” he added.

NSWCDD has also confirmed it is considering a variety of additional payloads into the CUSV’s modular mission bay to support maritime interdiction and special operations.

 “We’re demonstrating the realm of the possible, proof of concept and leveraging a Textron developmental craft and proven weapon systems with the Hellfire, BMS, and other capabilities,” explained Textron Systems vice president of Control & Surface Systems, Wayne Prender. 

"We are developing automated weapon systems that provide tactically effective automation of the entire kill chain and we’re doing so with minimal dependence on what is usually an unreliable datalink,” he added while describing how the BMS would also be able to support the detection and tracking of targets.

NSWCDD’s Nerney concluded: “If the decision was made to outfit the CUSV with a variety of payloads, it could be deployed from nearly any large ship and could be deployed in significant numbers from a US Navy ship or a Joint High Speed Vessel type platform to perform a variety of roles.”

The news follows a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between Textron and NSWCDD in December 2017 which features the integration of missile, designator and remote weapon station payloads on board the CUSV.

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