Navy Officials Define Traits for Future Anti-Mine UUVs

November 6, 2014 - via US Navy

MCLEAN, Va. — The Navy has laid out its top priorities to the defense industry for the characteristics of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) needed to hunt and neutralize sea mines.

Speaking to an audience Nov. 6 at the Unmanned Systems Program Review sponsored by the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, CAPT Eric Wirstrom, acting maritime operations center director at Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, said the defense industry should focus on speed, sea state, sensors and affordability as it develops UUVs for mine countermeasures (MCM).

With regard to speed, Wirstrom said the Navy’s explosive ordnance disposal forces feel the increased pressure to compress the time needed to clear an operations area of mines. He cited the need to increase the transit speed and pattern sweep speed of UUVs to the potential minefield. The data exchange rate between the UUV and the operator needs to be speeded up to compress the time between detection and analysis. Automatic target recognition (ATA) needs to be refined to reduce the detect-to-engage timeline.

Navy officials also stress the need for MCM UUVs to be deployed in adverse weather and sea states and be “platform-agnostic,” able to be launched and recovered from a variety of ships, small boats, combat rubber raiding craft, aircraft, submarines and piers. Deployment by aircraft, such as with a C-130 in a recent experiment off San Diego, dramatically increases the speed of deployment of a UUV and the duration of the UUVs mission time spent on station.

Wirstrom also said the service desires an expansion of the spectrum of sensors employed in MCM. These include higher definition electro-optic systems to increase clarity, a way of detection explosive material and magnetic detection.

“Open architecture is critical,” Wirstrom said, advocating more “plug-and-play” sensor payloads.

Wirstrom emphasized the need for affordability, maintainability and operational reliability of UUVs, as well as systems that are easy to operate in the field. He said UUVs must be operated by the current force structure because the available forces are not going to increase in the foreseeable future.

Future UUVs need to be able to operate in a denied area, not only in hostile zones but in areas with low-end natural obstructions such as kelp beds and fishing nets.

Also speaking at the event, Rob Simmons, assistant program manager for underwater explosive ordnance disposal systems at Naval Sea Systems Command, said UUV MCM systems should be affordable such that back-up systems could be staged on site so the loss of a system will not lead to catastrophic mission failure.

Simmons said the top priority for MCM UUVs is reducing the data processing time. He also stressed the need for a common operator interface for UUVs; enhanced power systems to enhance range, endurance and speed; improved stand-off detection and classification; and improved stand-off re-acquisition identification and neutralization.

Dr. Dan Sternlicht, head of the Sensing Sciences Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, told the audience that the current sensor goal is to “detect and neutralize a target in a single pass or a single sortie.” Sternlicht said that a lot of effort is going into the miniaturization of sensors as payloads on UUVs and to elimination the need for post-mission analysis. “Speed is the key to getting drifting mines,” he said.

Sternlicht also stressed the importance of shortening the detect-to-engagement cycle to a single sortie.

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Author:Richard Burgess

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