Anti-submarine warfare (ASW) experts at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington want to develop an unmanned surface vessel able to track quiet enemy diesel-electric submarines worldwide in nearly all environmental conditions. They are finding their solution from QinetiQ North America Technology Solutions Group in Waltham, Mass.
DARPA awarded QinetiQ a $2 million contract late last week for the first phase of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program to develop a first-of-its-kind unmanned naval vessel for theater or global independent deployment that is optimized to provide continuous overt trail of threat submarines.
This unmanned ASW surface vessel will operate under a sparse remote supervisory command and control model, with a shore based supervisor providing high level mission objectives and monitoring autonomous performance through an intermittent beyond line of sight communications link.
The ACTUV will be able to navigate safely at sea according to maritime law, as well as to international regulations for avoiding collisions at sea. Not only will the vessel be able to navigate by itself around the world in all kinds of ocean conditions, but it also will be able to employ its sensor suite autonomously and carry out appropriate tactics based on target behavior environmental conditions.
In particular, the ACTUV system will be able to operate on long deployments with no underway human maintenance or repair, unlike current unmanned surface vessels, which are launched and recovered from manned ships, tele-operated from manned ships, and are limited to direct support of manned ship missions.
The program is architected to achieve three primary objectives, DARPA officials say: design, build, and demonstrate an X-ship on which no person steps aboard at any time during operations; show the technical viability of an independently deploying unmanned naval vessel under sparse remote supervisory control; and combine the unmanned surface vessel with a suite of sensors capable of tracking quiet modern diesel electric submarines.
This is the first part of a four-phase program. Phase 2 will involve integrated hardware-in-the-loop testing, phase 3 will fund construction of an integrated prototype vessel and initial sea trials, and phase 4 will involve mission-oriented sea trials.