Navy to develop unmanned surface vessels as its newest generation of minesweepers

ARLINGTON, Va., 8 Aug. 2012. U.S. Navy leaders are considering a future generation of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) and mission payloads that are designed to be minesweepers to augment U.S. counter-mine capabilities that blend unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), manned surface ships, and laser-equipped helicopters.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., issued a solicitation (ONRBAA12-018) in late July for the USV Payloads for Single Sortie Detect to Engage (SS-DTE) Mine Counter Measures (MCM) program, which seeks to develop a USV-based system capable of detecting, classifying, and neutralizing floating, moored, and bottom-deployed sea mines in shallow coastal waters and harbors.

This future USV minesweeper would be able to conduct the three phases of mine hunting operations in one sortie, and may become part of a future Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine counter measures mission package.

The program has two primary thrusts: launch, control, and communications with the USV and its payload; and neutralizing sea mines.

The SS-DTE MCM payload will contain the components necessary for deployment and retrieval of UUVs, as well as the launch of mine neutralizers aboard a USV, an interface with the LCS communication system, USV autonomy and automation, and the software architecture and software planning tools to manage and coordinate the USV MCM payload.

The capability to destroy or neutralize near-surface floating and drifting mines, as well as prosecuting bottom and volume mines. For the overall program, Navy researchers seek to use a modular open systems approach (MOSA) for all components to enable upgrades and add capability with minimal effort as systems and missions evolve.

Navy researchers envision a 40-foot USV host craft that carries four lightweight unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) -- two to search for bottom mines, and two for volume search on or near the surface. The USV host craft also would carry as many as 24 expendable neutralizers, payload management, and data processing.

Navy experts would extract raw data from the UUVs after each mission for processing aboard the USV and transmission to the LCS for further assessment.

The systems neutralizers for near-surface floating and drifting mines will involve a tethered mine neutralization system initially, but Navy researchers in the long term would like to develop an affordable untethered expendable neutralizer. The neutralizers will destroy mines autonomously.

Companies interested should send white papers to ONR no later than 27 Sept. 2012, and full proposals by 13 Dec. 2012. Navy officials will make selections as early as 14 Jan. 2013.

For questions or concerns contact the Navy's John Dudinsky by email at john.dudinsky@navy.mil, or Thomas Swean at tom.swean@navy.mil.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DON/ONR/ONR/ONRBAA12-018/listing.html.

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