Textron Systems’ Fleet-Class Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) is the foundation for the US Navy’s first Unmanned Surface Vessel. Through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) announced last January with Naval Sea Systems Command’s Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren, Virginia Division, Textron Systems is collaborating with the service and its unspecified academic and industry partners on surface warfare packages, including the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) – unrelated to this CRADA and work with NSWC Dahlgren – to be integrated onto the CUSV, and on autonomous navigation capabilities for the vessel.
Wayne Prender, Textron Systems’ Senior Vice President of Applied Technology & Advanced Programs, recalled that in the last quarter of calendar year 2018, the CRADA’s waterborne, “capstone event,” was completed. “We had the integrated battle management system with the autonomous surface warfare package all integrated into the CUSV system’s command and control solution, and an additive autonomy system that allows the vessel to ‘optimize itself’ and navigate around obstacles,” the Hunt Valley, Maryland-based executive recalled.
As this article is published, Textron Systems is awaiting its US Navy customer’s decision on how to take CUSV to, “the next level,” -- perhaps an Advanced Naval Technology Exercise. Mr Prender added: “We’ve proven and demonstrated to ourselves that the development and integration activities that we set out to do were within the realm of the possible. Now we’re ready to showcase that. We’re encouraged and have high confidence we’ll be invited to that exercise.”
CUSV is one part of the service’s overarching UISS programme, on which Textron Systems is also on contract with the navy. Textron Systems has completed the post-delivery inspection and test milestone in the developmental testing phase of the UISS acquisition programme. “That programme is heading toward milestone C in first quarter of this year ,” Mr Prender noted. “We have completed early delivery of two pilot units – early production variants – to be used for integration of the [Raytheon] AN/AQS-20 and [Northrop Grumman] AQS-24B mine hunting sonar packages. In all, 2019 will be a breakthrough year for the CUSV programmes, with UISS completing its development phase. We’ll go into milestone C which will trigger low-rate initial production. And we’ll also be continuing the integration of the mine hunting payload activities and conducting on-water testing as well.”
UISS integration activities have heretofore been focused around CUSV. As this symposium convened, the efforts were transitioning, to allow UISS to serve as a mission module in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The industry expert added: “Through January we are performing initial integration activities focused on communications and a ‘form fit’ – physical integration on LCS-2.”
Additionally, in 2019, Textron Systems will continue to demonstrate the mission expansion capabilities of CUSV, including with its surface warfare packages, and autonomous behaviours and capabilities sets. Textron Systems is in the early phase of discussions with unspecified, international, partner navies about demonstrating CUSV.