Tag Archives: USV

Contract tea leaves

Last Friday had a bunch of interesting contract announcements including $450M from the Army to General Atomics for a kind of undetailed drone award (Predator, Gray Eagle, or something better?), while the Navy dropped over $70 million split between Ingalls, Lockheed, Martin-Marietta, Bollinger, Austal, Gibbs, and Hadal to keep working on drone boats. Interesting, the latter of these is specifically for “using spiral winding technology to lower the cost of high-quality carbon fiber composite unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) hulls.”

This comes after at least four large unmanned surface vessels were used in the latest RIMPAC exercises this summer and the Royal Navy just welcomed a similar vessel– XV Patrick Blackett— into their fleet.

USV Sea Hunter at RIMPAC 2022

The announcements, should you be curious:

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., Poway, California, was awarded a $456,246,389 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for engineering and technical services required to accomplish research, development, integration, test, sustainment and operation for unmanned aircraft systems. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work locations and funding will be determined with each order, with an estimated completion date of July 27, 2027. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, is the contracting activity (W31P4Q-22-D-0025).

Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi, is awarded a $13,071,106 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6319 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $ 15,071,106. Work will be performed in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,998 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin Corp., Baltimore, Maryland, is awarded an $11,320,904 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6320 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $15,070,904. Work will be performed in Moorestown New Jersey, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,941 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Marinette Marine Corp., Marinette, Wisconsin, is awarded a $10,212,620 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6317 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. Work will be performed in Marinette, Wisconsin, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,841 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC, Lockport, Louisiana, is awarded a $9,428,770 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6316 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $13,958,770. Work will be performed in Lockport, Louisiana, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,933 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Austal USA LLC, Mobile, Alabama, is awarded a $9,115,310 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6315 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $13,285,309. Work will be performed in Mobile, Alabama, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September, 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,878 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Gibbs & Cox Inc., Arlington, Virginia, is awarded an $8,981,231 firm-fixed-price modification to previously awarded contract N00024-20-C-6318 for continued studies of a large unmanned surface vessel. This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $15,071,231. Work will be performed in Arlington, Virginia, and is expected to be completed by September 2024. If all options are exercised, work will continue through September 2024. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $149,899 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

Hadal Inc.,* Oakland, California, is awarded an $8,222,536 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for the Low Cost Spiral Wound Hull that supports multiple payloads. This contract provides for using spiral winding technology to lower the cost of high-quality carbon fiber composite unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) hulls. The contractor shall develop UUV hull designs and components suitable for spiral winding. In the base effort, the contractor shall develop and prototype the first generation spiral wound hulls, associated internal housings and payload deployment systems to assess the technology maturity. The contract also contains three unexercised options, which if exercised would increase cumulative contract value to $23,604,065. Work will be performed in Oakland, California, and is expected to be completed by July 28, 2026. Fiscal 2022 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $8,222,536 are obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured under N00014-22-S-B001 long range broad agency announcement (BAA) for Navy and Marine Corps Science and Technology dated Oct. 1, 2021. Since proposals are received throughout the year under the long range BAA, the number of proposals received in response to the solicitation is unknown. The Office of Naval Research, Arlington, Virginia, is the contracting activity (N00014-22-C-2023).

Outfitting the Angels

Also, with the 11th “Arctic Angels” Airborne Division being stood up in Alaska, there is lots of cold weather kit being ordered, which would seem to point to the U.S. Army getting serious about fighting in polar regions. This included $10M for CTAPS suits and another $9M for canteens that won’t freeze. Of note, the completion date on both is in next year rather than the more traditional five years. Take what you will from that:

SourceAmerica, Vienna, Virginia, was awarded a $10,622,966 firm-fixed-price contract for Cold Temperature and Arctic Protection System extreme cold weather suits. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will be performed in Vienna, Virginia, with an estimated completion date of April 28, 2023. Fiscal 2022 operation and maintenance, Army funds in the amount of $10,622,966 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity (W911QY-22-C-0038).

SourceAmerica, Vienna, Virginia, was awarded a $9,099,930 firm-fixed-price contract for cold weather canteens. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will be performed in Vienna, Virginia, with an estimated completion date of Nov. 30, 2023. Fiscal 2022 operation and maintenance, Army funds in the amount of $9,099,930 were obligated at the time of the award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity (W911QY-22-C-0036).

Quiet Developments in 5th Fleet

It hasn’t gotten a lot of press, but CENTCOM has seen some interesting visitors and additions in recent days.

First up, the Freedom-class littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), commissioned on 17 November 2018, arrived at Manama, Bahrain on 25 June, marking the completion of a “historic” 10,000-mile journey from her homeport in Mayport, Florida, becoming the first LCS of either class to operate in the Middle East.

Littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS 11), arrives at Naval Support Activity Bahrain, on June 25. Sioux City is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations to help ensure maritime security and stability in the Middle East region. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Terry Vongsouthi)

Of course, the Navy wants to decommission all nine Freedom-class ships currently in service, Sioux City included, but at least it shows they can reach overseas if needed. Maybe.

The day after Sioux City arrived, she operated with unmanned surface vessels and crewed ships in the Arabian Gulf, on June 26. The vessels included a 23-foot Saildrone Explorer, a 38-foot MARTAC Devil Ray T-38, the Island-class patrol cutter USCGC Baranof (WPB 1318), the new Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142), and the aging (27 years young on a hull built for 15) Cyclone-class 170-foot patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12).

Of note, the Coast Guard is rapidly replacing the Islands with the Sentinels, as we have covered several times before, while the Navy is ridding itself of the Cyclones, leaving the 5th Fleet to be staffed largely just with six forward deployed Sentinels of Coast Guard PATFORSWA, and visiting Navy units.

Speaking of which, two of the Coast Guard’s newest Sentinels: USCGC Clarence Sutphin (WPC 1147) and USCGC John Scheuerman (WPC 1146), departed CONUS last week en route to their new homeport in Bahrain alongside their trans-Atlantic escort, the 270-foot medium endurance cutter USCGC Mohawk (WMEC-913).

Of course, the Navy could always just forward deploy half of the Freedom-class LCSs there to take up the slack caused by the departure of the Cyclones and leave the other half stateside as training platforms, allowing crews to fly out and rotate.

Handoff? USS Sioux City Blue Crew (LCS 11) and Cyclone-class USS Thunderbolt PC-12 transit the Strait of Hormuz, June 24. For years the Navy wanted to get rid of the Cyclones and even loaned a couple to the Coast Guard. Then, after 2001, they saw the utility in forward deploying most of them to Bahrain as a standing FU force to the Iranian IRGCN.

The hulls could do good work in minesweeping and as drone mother ships, a job in which their iffy combining gear wouldn’t be a deal-breaker as they would serve largely as depot/station ships. I mean, they are littoral combat ships, right?

Maybe Sioux City could be a harbinger of a Plan B for her class.

Inside the Helge Ingstad

Many naval shipwrecks are in deep water or in mud so nasty that even if in shallower depths, have visibility of about nil. Not so with the recently lost Helge Ingstad, which for now at least, is in the shallows of a crystal clear fjord in Norway at depths that enable small surface ROVs and scuba-equipped salvage work.

For those under a rock for the past month, HNoMS Helge Ingstad is a Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate of the Royal Norwegian Navy. On 8 November 2018, the frigate collided with the tanker Sola TS in Norwegian waters, was severely damaged in the collision and beached:

The cables didn’t hold and she slipped down the ledge where she rests today.

The Norwegian Navy this week released two videos from the wreck. One of them piloting the Blueye Pioneer underwater drone inside her hull, and another recovering Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launch canisters from her topside.

The NSM is a 13-foot-long, 900-pound anti-ship missile produced by Norway’s Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and it is being shopped by Raytheon in the U.S. to replace Harpoon on frigates and LCS vessels. The range is 100+ nm and it is optimized for use in so-called green or blue water. Nansen-class frigates tote eight of these. More on the NSM here.

Of note, Blueye is also a Norwegian company. More on the ROV, which only runs like $6K, here.

Hauling wheat around Yemen will get you holed

“The assessment at the moment is it was almost certainly non-state Yemen based actors firing a land-based missile or rocket at the vessel,” Major Tom Mobbs, head of intelligence and security with the European Union’s counter-piracy mission EU Navfor, told Reuters.

Damage to the Turkish-flagged bulk carrier Ince Inebolu after last weeks missile attack.

The Turkish flagged Ince Inebolu bulk carrier was damaged by an explosion on May 10, some 70 miles off the Red Sea port of Salif where it was due to deliver a 50,000-tonne cargo of Russian wheat. Likely culprits are the Houthis, who last month hit a Saudi oil tanker was off Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, suffering limited damage.

And of course, the Houthis have exchanged fire with both Gulf State and U.S. military vessels several times.

It looks like ONR is picking up Sea Hunter

I give you, DARPA’s robot subchaser, Sea Hunter, testbed of the ACTUV program, which is now part of ONR.

From DARPA:

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.

Sure you have a drone, but does your drone have a drone?

Complete with lots of dramatic royalty free muzak, the above video from Lockheed-Martin is actually pretty interesting if you take the time to digest it.

It shows “Vector Hawk,” a small, unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), on command from the little yellow submarine looking thing– “Marlin MK2” autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)– while a third vehicle, the “Submaran,” an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) developed by Ocean Aero (the sailboat looking thing), provided surface reconnaissance and surveillance.

As noted by LM:

The four-pound Vector Hawk can fly for 70-plus minutes, at line-of-sight ranges up to 15 kilometers. Operators can recover and re-launch the Vector Hawk in a matter of minutes (including changing the system’s battery). Vector Hawk is built on an open architecture to enable rapid technology insertion and payload integration.

Marlin MK2 is a battery powered, fully autonomous underwater vehicle that is 10 feet long with a 250 pound payload capacity, 18-24 hour endurance, depth rating of 1000 feet and weighs approximately 2,000 pounds. Its open architecture design and modularity allow new mission packages to be quickly integrated into Marlin to meet emerging customer needs.

Drone boat suspected in attack on Saudi frigate

As noted by Defense News:

The Houthi boat that attacked and hit a Saudi frigate Jan. 30 in the Red Sea, reported earlier as a suicide boat, was instead carried out by an unmanned, remote-controlled craft filled with explosives, the US Navy’s top officer in the Mideast said.

“Our assessment is that it was an unmanned, remote-controlled boat of some kind,” Vice Adm. Kevin Donegan, commander of the Bahrain-based US Fifth Fleet and head of US Naval Forces Central Command, told Defense News in an interview here Saturday.

The attack on the frigate Al Madinah appears to be the first confirmed use of the weapon which, Donegan said, represents a wider threat than that posed by suicide boats and shows foreign interests are aiding the Houthis.

Donegin is concerned “first that it is in the hands of someone like the Houthis. That’s not an easy thing to develop. There have been many terrorist groups that have tried to develop that, it’s not something that was just invented by the Houthis. There’s clearly support there coming from others, so that’s problematic.

“The second is the explosive boat piece — you don’t need suicide attackers to do a suicide-like attack. There are certain terrorists that do things and they get martyrs to go and do it. But there are many others that don’t want to martyr themselves in making attacks like that and that’s pretty much where the Houthis are. So it makes that kind of weaponry, which would normally take someone suicidal to use, now able to be used by someone who’s not going to martyr themselves.”

The unmanned boat was likely supplied by Iran, Donegan said.

More here.

Speaking of drones in the Pacific

I’ve talked a lot about the Navy’s Sea Hunter program and others, but how about this news ICYMI from the Pitcairn Islands– you know, that windswept group of four volcanic atolls in the Pacific inhabited mostly by descendants of the Bounty mutineers and the Tahitians who accompanied them. Sparsely populated, the British Territory sees the occasional USCG/USN or RN ship pass through the area, but there is no enduring presence.

It seems they have hit on the idea of protecting their huge EEZ (322,000 sq. mile, or about the size of Texas and Montana combined!) by unmanned submersible operated by Satellite Applications Catapult and the Pew Charitable Trusts at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Harwell, Oxfordshire.

_81734919_eyes_on_sea_war_room0

Apparently the preserve is home to at least 1,249 species of marine mammals, seabirds and fish, as well as some of the most near-pristine ocean habitat on Earth, and the 54 inhabitants of the Pitcairnians– who depend on the sea for survival– can’t stop trans-global poachers all by themselves.

From the BBC:

The drone, made by US firm Liquid Robotics, will be directed by staff at the satellite watch room which is monitoring fishing vessels. The craft is equipped with a camera that can take snaps of fishing vessels that are in restricted areas, and satellite technology that can pinpoint their location. The unmanned craft starting patrolling late last month.

The Liquid Robotics drone, called a Wave Glider, is a two-part craft made up of an instrument-bearing boat that floats on the ocean surface that is tethered to a submersible. The craft uses the differential motion between the sea surface and the region the submersible traverses to propel itself.

The self-propelling propulsion system means the Wave Glider can stay at sea for months at a time.

Smile, you're on camera...

Smile, you’re on camera…

And her name shall be Sea Hunter

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.

sea hunter

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.

Meet ACTUV

DARPA just released some neat but brief 360-view footage of their Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) including some of it underway at a good clip (27 knots). The 132-foot USV is meant to be the expendable subchaser of the 21st century, and actually looks pretty sweet.

If they can get past concept and put 50-100 of these cheaply in the Western Pac, networked all sweet to a central ASW War Room, it could really negate all the skrilla the Norks and PLAN are dropping on subs.

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