US Invests in Navy Unmanned Vehicle Program

unmanned vehicle

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Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) will help protect submarines. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded BAE Systems a $4.6 million contract for a UUV that will help U.S. Navy submarines detect adversary subs while minimizing their own risk of being detected.

 

According to a Broad Agency Announcement released at the start of DARPA’s Mobile Offboard Clandestine Communications and Approach (MOCCA) program, the program would leverage benefits of active sonar systems while protecting the submarine’s location, since the pings would be coming from a UUV at some unknown distance from the submarine.

According to news.usni.org, the contract award for Phase 1 of the program covers the development of an active sonar suitable for small UUV operations and a secure communication to connect the UUV to its host submarine.  “Advances in maritime technology are critical to the Department of Defense and an area where the U.S. military can continue to strengthen its advantage,” Geoff Edelson, director of Maritime Systems and Technology at BAE Systems, said in a company news release.

This Phase 1 effort should yield “development of compact and efficient acoustic projectors and novel sonar receiver processing to maximize sonar detection range, reverberation and clutter rejection, and target discrimination and tracking,” the BAA reads. On the communications side, “the communications link between the host submarine and the UUV will be used to control the UUV and its sonar payload, and to communicate information generated on the UUV back to the host platform. The MOCCA system will be used during an engagement, so proper control of the UUV is critical,” according to the BAA.

The link could leverage acoustic, optical, and relayed Radio Frequency (RF) signaling modalities, according to the BAA, must have significant range and will be evaluated for its Low Probability of Intercept and Low Probability of Exploitation characteristics. The BAA outlined a 51-month, three-phase program, which starts with this contract award to BAE Systems for a 15-month Phase 1 research and development effort of the communication link and the sonar, with sub-system prototypes developed and demonstrated. If successful, DARPA could compete another contract for Phase 2 – at-sea system-level demonstrations of MOCCA technologies – and an option for Phase 3, an 18-month effort to integrate and test MOCCA with a submarine at sea.