The Navy may use an in-development underwater vehicle program as an acquisition model for future programs, according to the chief of naval research. As the Office of Naval Research builds and develops prototypes of the Large-Diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV), the office is working with Naval Sea Systems Command to make sure the engineering interfaces will work for the fleet, Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, told Inside the Navy after his presentation last week at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium in Arlington, VA.
Two LDUUV prototypes are built and Klunder has worked with Capt. Duane Ashton, NAVSEA's unmanned maritime systems program manager. At NAVSEA many of the engineering interfaces are already set up, he said. "In years past we've waited very late in the game to talk to the engineers at NAVSEA or 406 [unmanned maritime systems program office]," Klunder stated. "Now we're talking to them early, we're understanding what do they need that is critical in our prototype development."
ONR is developing LDUUV prototypes right now and is using the office's funding to make tweaks. In 18 months when prototypes five and six are built, Klunder said they should be able to enter the fleet. Not only is this approach saving money, it is saving time. A traditional acquisition program could take 10 or more years. With the LDUUV the service shaved off at least three years by using this approach, Klunder stated. Klunder sees this acquisition program being a model for programs that are "one click below" an aircraft carrier or an Ohio-class replacement submarine.
"It's absolutely applicable to any other kind of program and we've seen great success," he said.
The Navy's undersea steering committee is conducting an LDUUV analysis of alternatives. Klunder, Ashton, the surface warfare (N96) and information dominance (N2/N6) offices and Vice Adm. Michael Connor, submarine forces commander, are all working on the AOA. The undersea steering committee is reviewing data from ONR's first two LDUUV prototypes, and the AOA is to wrap up in February, Klunder said.
Unmanned undersea vehicles are also receiving support from Congress. In its fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee stated it "is in agreement with the views of the Chief of Naval Operations that unmanned vehicles, particularly UUVs, can complement and augment manned naval systems; increasing their capability while reducing risk to Navy personnel and cost."
The bill offers an example of using unmanned vehicles to provide persistent presence that could enhance the effectiveness of surveillance missions in priority locations. "The ability of one operator to control a number of unmanned vehicles could also expand the coverage potential of these systems without requiring an increase in personnel," the committee said.