The Navy plans to issue a draft request for proposals for its Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle this summer, and expects to release the final RFP by the end of the fiscal year, according to a service official.
The Navy has invested about three years so far in the LDUUV, Capt. David Honabach, program manager for unmanned maritime systems, said during a presentation at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International's Program Review 2014 conference last week in McLean, Virginia. The Navy has completed the analysis of alternatives for the program, and the capabilities development document (CDD) "is working its way up to the Chief of Naval Operations as we speak," Honabach said.
"A lot of progress has been made," Honabach said Nov. 7. "We do expect a draft RFP to come out later this summer, and then we will have the final RFP by the end of the fiscal year."
The LDUUV is an autonomous craft that will provide persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), intelligence preparation of the operational environment (IPOE) and anti-submarine warfare capabilities. It is planned to deploy and operate both static and mobile sensors for surveillance missions.
The vehicle is designed be deployable from worldwide port facilities, as well as from Navy platforms such as the Littoral Combat Ship, Ohio-class submarines that have been converted to carry conventional cruise missiles rather than nuclear missiles, and Virginia-class attack submarines.
Moving to a larger vehicle gives the Navy significantly more mission dwell time, Honabach told Inside the Navy after his presentation -- it can continue to operate for up to weeks or months. The larger craft can also carry out missions at increased distances.
"It's very difficult for a host platform, if it has to stay in the area with and recover within a day, for it to actually go do a separate mission," Honabach said. "So the key there is to give the opportunity for the host platform to go do other operational requirements. [Meanwhile] the LDUUV can conduct its own mission and then rejoin, recharge, and then launch again."
The Navy is still exploring options for a host platform for the LDUUV, Honabach said. The program office is looking specifically at either LCS or submarines for the host platform." Specifically we are looking from the capability for either LCS to host or for submarines to host," Honabach said. "So we are still exploring the options for a variety of different surface ships."
Congress has recently expressed concern that fiscal constraints may hamper the Navy's goal to deploy the LDUUV squadron on independent missions by 2020, ITN reported in June. In a report accompanying the Senate's mark of the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill, the Senate Armed Services Committee urged the Navy to use the public shipyard infrastructure and expertise for UUV research, development and support.
The Navy has cited the LDUUV program as a model for future acquisition programs, stressing how the service is saving time and money on it. The service was able to shave off at least three years from the LDUUV program by having designers work to ensure engineering interfaces will work for the fleet, Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, told ITN last year. Klunder sees the LDUUV acquisition program as being a model for programs that are "one click below" an aircraft carrier or an Ohio-class replacement submarine.