Mobile, Alabama-based Austal USA, builder of the Navy’s Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF)– which have gotten good reviews– and the Independence-class littoral combat ship– you know, the class of LCS that kinda-sorta works– released these interesting artist depictions of future designs without much context or details.
The company was recently given a $44 million contract from the Navy to develop one of its EPFs as an autonomous surface vessel, so keep that in mind.
This appears to be a larger version of the EPF with a huge 96-cell VLS section, a concept that could be a budget arsenal ship. A Tomahawk raft, if you will. The Spearheads use 40~ man crews.
Speaking of arsenal ships, this looks to be a larger version of the company’s 58m OPV, stretched to add a long (strike length?) 32-cell VLS section. Note the Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) designator on the hull and the airborne sensor off the stern. Besides the VLS, the only other armament visible is four M2 .50 cal mounts. The small number of liferafts hint at accommodations for a tiny transit or combat crew.
Odds are, this is an autonomous design for ISR purposes
Look at this sweet trimaran. Envision a 53-foot container that can hold anything from ASMs to IRBMs or a mine-hunting det, which would make sense if the design incorporates a composite hull. An MCM LSUV, if you will.
I give you, DARPA’s robot subchaser, Sea Hunter, testbed of the ACTUV program, which is now part of ONR.
DARPA has successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has officially transferred the technology demonstration vessel, christened Sea Hunter, to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). ONR will continue developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle—the first of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).
The handover marks the culmination of three years of collaboration between DARPA and ONR that started in September 2014. An April 2016 christening ceremony marked the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing conducted jointly with ONR. That same month, the vessel moved to San Diego, Calif., for open-water testing.
ONR plans to continue the aggressive schedule of at-sea tests to further develop ACTUV/MDUSV technologies, including automation of payload and sensor data processing, rapid development of new mission-specific autonomous behaviors, and exploring coordination of autonomous activities among multiple USVs. Pending the results of those tests, the MDUSV program could transition to U.S. Navy operations by 2018.
Just unveiled a few weeks ago, the 132-foot USV which aims to be the Navy’s newest 21st Century expendable sub-chaser has been formally christened.
Part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV Pronounced “Active,” ) program, in conjunction with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Sea Hunter as she is now know, is a game changer.
“This is an inflection point,” Deputy U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Work said in an interview, adding he hoped such ships might find a place in the Western Pacific in as few as five years. “This is the first time we’ve ever had a totally robotic, trans-oceanic-capable ship.”
Sea Hunter will now move to San Diego for a two year pilot program to R&D just what the platform can do and what sensor package works best.
The ship’s projected $20 million all-up price tag and its $15,000 to $20,000 daily operating cost make it relatively inexpensive to operate. For comparison, a single Littoral Combat Ship runs $432 million (at least LCS-6 did) to build and run about $220K a day to operate– but of course that is a moving target.
Still, its easy to see where a flotilla of Sea Hunters could provide a lot of ASW coverage on the cheap and even if mines or torpedoes take half of them out, it’s a hit to the treasury and not incoming C-17s to Dover with waiting honor guards.
And with that in mind, check out this super sweet walk-through/construction video to see just how simple this craft is.