Navy’s Updated UUV Road Map Is Out, But It’s Classified

August 25, 2011 - via Seapower Magazine

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Navy has completed its update of the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) road map first issued in 2000, but not everyone can see it, according to a senior admiral.

“We are communicating with industry, but at this stage, it’s still a classified document,” Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder told Seapower Aug. 19 at the AUVSI Unmanned Systems North America conference. He said the Navy was already working through the second phase of the document. “We actually have action plans on all the missions we are trying to achieve,” Klunder said, adding that the UUV master plan “covers every spectrum,” including humanitarian operations, environmental missions and more military missions. There are no near-term plans to make the UUV road map public.

But Klunder, the departing director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities at the Navy’s Information Dominance unit (N2/N6), said some aspects of the road map were made public in a series of Broad Agency Announcements (BAAs) released by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) starting in March. The BAAs seek industry proposals to increase the energy capacity and autonomy for a big UUV known as a Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Innovative Naval Prototype.

ONR is looking for technologies that will allow the large UUV — which is to be launched and recovered from a pier rather a ship at sea — to transit open ocean, operate over the horizon and survive for up to 70 days in the littorals. The power system must be energy dense, air independent, rechargeable and refuelable, according to the BAA. Nuclear-powered devices will not be considered. Respondents to the BAA are expected to deliver a scalable energy system with threshold and objective performances.

The Navy’s master plan for UUVs was first developed in 2000 and updated in 2004. The latest version was expected to be released in 2009 after the Navy dropped funding plans for the Mission Reconfigurable Underwater Unmanned Vehicle, a subsurface drone with a 21-inch diameter that could be deployed through a submarine torpedo tube. The Navy said it was looking for a larger UUV that could stay on mission longer and carry bigger payloads. But the master plan’s revision stayed under wraps for months.

Last February, Navy officials told AUVSI’s Program Review conference in Washington that the updated master plan was ready and slated for release in April. But April, May, June and July came and went without word of the revisions. The updated UUV road map “had initial missions that were classified, just so that we in the Navy could internalize it,” Klunder said after attending a speech at the Aug. 19 conference by Adm. Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, on unmanned vehicles.

While the revised master plan is classified, Klunder said ONR is working with industry partners. “We’re allowing them to connect with us and we can go through those mission requirements,” he said. Klunder, will soon become director of ONR.

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Author:John M. Doyle

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