Military Review

Underwater giants. The US Navy is preparing for the era of uninhabited underwater vehicles

The US Navy implements projects on small, medium, large and super-large regulatory missiles, which have to solve a variety of tasks: from mine search to reconnaissance and surveillance. Let's see if there is any success fleet and the US industry in the development of large and super-large class regulatory acts.

Lockheed Martin Develops Orca Unmanned Submarine for US Navy Program XLUUV

The US Navy has recently begun to change its approaches to the development and supply of uninhabited underwater vehicles (NPA). Instead of deliveries in the shortest possible time, sometimes still “raw” systems, the fleet is now seeking to provide the operating units of the platform with a view to receiving suggestions and comments from users on the results of trial operation.

This approach allows the fleet to develop platforms in parallel with technology. Modular design means that upgrades can be easily carried out during the production process. Obviously, this is manifested in the approach of the fleet to large NPA.

Major ABOs will need new technologies so that they can work at greater depths, stay longer at sea (in some cases up to 60 days), go out to forbidden areas and conduct various operations without human participation.

To do this, large NAPs need to have modern propulsion systems, a modular target load, autonomous navigation, and orientation and recognition systems for operations in the coastal zone. The US Navy is also developing advanced power solutions that can increase the energy intensity of lithium-polymer batteries and provide fast recharging or refueling.

In addition to conducting reconnaissance, surveillance and information gathering, these underwater vehicles can perform other tasks. A large volume of cargo compartment allows these NLAs to deploy submarine mines or smaller vehicles or to supply hard-to-reach areas in connection with the provision of disaster relief or humanitarian operations.

In order to get these features, the Navy is currently implementing the Snakehead Large Displacement UUV program. The Naval Research Authority (ONR) also built two experimental units, the LDUUV-INP (Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV)) - Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) - a large-displacement underwater vehicle - an innovative marine prototype). Meanwhile, in September, Boeing and Lockheed Martin received contracts for the construction of super-large NPA Ogs.

In October 2017, the prototype LDUUV-INP 1 was transferred from ONR to the command of the Naval Naval Systems Command (NAVSEA). According to John Rucker, program manager for underwater systems, this static model will be used by the new UUVRON squadron (UUV-squadron) at the NUWC Keyport Naval Undersea Warfare Center - Keyport SIC subdivision for training of operators for lifting, lowering movement and equipment of large NPA. In December 2017, the fully functional INP 2 unit was supplied to the NUWC Keyport branch.

Two INP units will help UUVRON prepare for the delivery of larger NLAs, which are planned for the 2020-2021 years.

The personnel will work with these larger devices for several years, lower and raise them with the help of a crane, study various requirements for carrying capacity, perform more complex operations, in order to understand the principles of the combat use of large NLAs.

In early February, staff at NUWC Keyport practiced moving one of the INP devices from storage to water. At the end of the month, the operators lowered the INP into the water to practice working with the device at shallow depths.

Throughout the year, operators will continue to perform operations in shallow water, gradually moving to greater depths and performing more complex tasks.

“After we complete the 2019 fiscal year, we will continue this work and be ready to receive more functional devices,” said Rucker.

According to Brian McKeon, head of the department of underwater systems at NUWC Keyport, NUWC Keyport provides buildings and technical facilities, and the UUVRON squad operates INP units. “Joint operation of INP devices by UUVRON squadrons and NUWC staff will help NUWC apply new technologies (as they become available) in larger systems. I believe that when we understand that these technologies are sufficiently developed and can be implemented, then the transition to them will be much easier and smoother. ”

In the center of the NUWC Keyport, the sailors from the UUVRON 1 squad are actively using the LDUUV-INP 1 and 2 units in order to get a better understanding of how these platforms work.

Unlike the SIC of problems of underwater warfare, which in its branch NUWC Keyport studies two LDUUV INP vehicles, the fleet itself used a different approach to Snakehead LDUUV. According to the 1 Stage of this program, the fleet is a system integrator of solutions offered by industry. The program is currently at the stage of detailed design, and at the 1 Stage it is planned to receive two systems.

“The fleet is currently developing plans for the next stages,” Rucker said. “Currently, the number of LDUUVs is determined by the fleet, but according to first estimates there will be at least 10 platforms.”

In 2015, NAVSEA released a draft request for proposals for the development phase of the prototype Snakehead LDUUV. However, six months later, the LDUUV strategy has changed. The fleet now coordinates the design and manufacture of the first systems, and NUWC Newport took over the general leadership.

Then in the fleet they stated that "in the revised approach at the early stages, the design of prototypes of on-board equipment and experiments with it are provided, and also previous technologies from other fleet programs are used."

Snakehead LDUUV and Orca XLUUV will have many common components, for example, a command and control system and interfaces for the integration of airborne equipment, as well as common key technologies, for example, providing longer sailing times and a high level of autonomy.

In both NLA will be installed lithium-ion batteries. The fleet also oversees the development of batteries for electronic devices and crewless cars. In turn, the US Navy Research Laboratory has developed several alternatives to lithium batteries. The fleet intends to embed new technologies in any program on NLA and is currently paying special attention to the transfer of LDUUV and XLUUV apparatuses to the production stage.

“However, you don’t have to try and integrate too many advanced technologies for the first time, because production may not be able to cope with this,” Rucker said.

“The fleet also wants to maximize the cruising range of its crewless vessels by studying technologies that can increase the specific energy of current sources,” McKeon added. “In some cases, this may change your combat principles and how you use these platforms.”

Both programs on NLA unconditionally follow the plan for the introduction of technology, which the naval fleet uses for introducing new equipment and software. Particular attention is paid to the modularity, in the case of technology availability, it can be quickly integrated into the vessel with minimal modifications.

The requirements for the LDUUV and XLUUV projects include interfaces that, when implemented, would allow the replacement of entire parts of the apparatus. As new technologies emerge in the future, this modularity should allow the transition from batteries of one type to batteries of another type or even to fundamentally different energy systems.

The US Navy is trying to standardize these interfaces and requirements for the entire NLA family. Common interfaces in the entire NLA family will allow the industry to use the technology it has developed for medium-sized devices in large apparatuses, and vice versa.

Autonomous transition

Autonomy is a critical feature. It will help the NAP to move from carrying out important, although in some cases well-defined and repetitive routine tasks, to carrying out more complex and independent tasks.

“We understood what we really want when it comes to device autonomy, to Get a more standard nomenclature, standard technology and standard interfaces, and if you are a small or large business or a state, you are going to develop a part of the device (building, mechanics, electrics) or part of the onboard equipment, then you need to understand what it means and where it is embedded in the overall autonomous architecture of the device, ”said Rucker.

At the end of 2017, the US government organized the Autonomy Standards Small Group autonomy standards development group. One of the first tasks of the group was the development of the Autonomy Standard Architecture Design Document document on the definition of standards for an autonomous architecture inside the device. This document is currently being evaluated by government agencies.

“We are trying to determine how much it is necessary to move the dates to the right. This ensures that future contracts, preferably existing contracts, can move to this standard of architecture within a reasonable time. ” Rucker said that these standards will greatly simplify the process, since it will be easier for the fleet to upgrade stand-alone solutions, since the developer will have at his disposal approved interface standards.

This approach will allow the fleet to begin testing using smaller sized ABOs, which have the same autonomous needs as XL-sized vehicles. Then, when the fleet receives a number of larger vehicles, it will be able to go to them.

The US Navy is also exploring the capabilities of the NUWC Key port Center to see if it can provide the necessary space and equipment for the comfortable work of the UUVRON team with the initial batch of Snakehead and Ogs vehicles.

Underwater giants. The US Navy is preparing for the era of uninhabited underwater vehicles

HII uses the Proteus technology swap as a substitute for the LDUUV platform to test various systems, such as sensory, command and control, autonomy and energy storage.

Will Proteus turn into LDUUV?

In April, the US Navy had to select companies to work with their vehicles in the NUWC Newport center. According to Ross Lindman from Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII), the contract for the NLA fleet family of systems is divided into 12 functional areas or mini-offers, for example, building, mechanics and electrics; navigation and control.

Proposals were submitted at the end of 2017, but applicants should not have applied to all 12 functional areas. This contract is the result of the decision of the fleet from 2016, to cancel the request for proposals and instead choose the design and construction of LDUUV prototypes and on-board equipment for them.

NII company and its partner Battelle have developed a device similar in size and capabilities with LDUUV. “The Proteus unit is owned by HII, which transferred its fleet for temporary use to test various equipment and apparatus, check general operating principles, and check various levels of autonomy,” said Lindman.

Proteus is a popular platform. In February, the NLA completed testing of sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico, which were conducted by the Center for the development of surface weapons of the Navy, and then began preparing for practical development of the principles of work conducted jointly by the Naval Research Laboratory and the Department of Homeland Security. According to Lindman, on average, Proteus goes to sea 3-4 once a month, sometimes the device goes to sea every day for several weeks.

Proteus is slightly larger than LDUUV, he noted. The LDUUV has a maximum length of 7 meters, whereas the Proteus 7,9 has a meter, although it has an alternative bow that allows it to enter the standard dry-deck DDS (dry deck shelter) dock. LDUUV must enter the enlarged dock and also the Universal Launch and Recovery Module of the submarine.

“Of course, there are limitations on length. The Proteus is slightly longer, but it enters an enlarged dock with an alternative nose section, which allows you to reduce the total length to an 6,7 meter. ” Lindman also noted that the accumulation of energy is one of the most difficult tasks. "If you want to stay at sea for long periods of time, then for this you must carry energy with you or you must have a remote way to replenish energy."

Another problem is the certification of lithium-based power systems. “The fleet has a very long and rigorous certification process, which you must go through before the energy system can be considered safe for use on board warships; the rules for submarines are even stricter, ”said Michael Mello of Battelle.

Battelle recently launched an analysis of alternative options for Proteus's advanced power systems. “We are studying the development of some safe lithium-ion systems. Several different organizations are conducting research in this area; we study these systems, as well as what national laboratories are developing. ”

Boeing has developed the largest in its family of PPA Echo Voyager, which presented as a probable applicant for participation in the XLUUV program

XLUUV development

In September, the US Navy 2017 issued a million dollars to the development of the Orca XLUUV 42,3 unit for a team led by the Boeing and 43,2 million teams led by Lockheed Martin. Both teams have passed a preliminary analysis of the projects, and in October a critical analysis of the projects is to take place. Fleet expects to choose a winner in the 2019 year. It is planned to issue one contract for five vehicles to one supplier, but, by the way, the fleet has the right to two contracts.

The first Orca XLUUV is expected to be delivered at the end of 2020 of the year, two more in 2021 and the last two in 2022.

The Orca XLUUV project began as an urgent need, determined by the fleet's combat command. XLUUV, along with Snakehead LDUUV, is also a priority program for the US Navy, who want to get this streamlined model in the shortest possible time, which is designed to counter the technological surprises of a potential adversary.

In his speech at the annual symposium of the Surface Fleet Association, Rucker said that the “range” of onboard equipment could be expanded to perform additional tasks, such as conducting special combat operations or installing unattended devices. “Ultimately, the goal is an underwater network of power generating units or communication devices, which you can organize to expand your range.”

In its budget for the 2019 year, the US Navy requested 30 millions of dollars to conduct research and develop technologies in the field of NLA, including funding for submarine power systems for NLAs limited by the amount of energy available on board. These works include research, development, testing and evaluation of advanced energy solutions for XLUUV devices, which allow to increase the energy resource and energy efficiency and accordingly increase the radius of action of these uninhabited underwater systems.

The request also considers the allocation of funds for the creation of prototypes of various weapons systems for these devices. In order to increase the combat effectiveness of the platforms in the fight against both underwater and surface threats, the program will create new weapon systems and develop new interfaces. New control algorithms will also improve the targeting system. After evaluation, XLUUV devices will assess the possibility of integration into other systems. The ultimate goal of all these works is to apply armament from the Orca XLUUV underwater vehicle during 2022.

XLUUV will also be used to demonstrate non-lethal target load in reconnaissance and strike missions. Non-lethal target loads such as jamming systems and optical / electronic / infrared blinding will be involved. After testing on the XLUUV devices, work will be carried out on the integration of similar systems on other NLAs.

In December, the DARPA Advanced Defense Research Directorate of 2017 awarded contracts to Applied Physical Sciences Corporation and Northrop Grumman for the development of an Orca XLUUV equipment compartment.

CLAWS program

At the end of 2017, the Office of Naval Research issued an announcement for the Agency for Scientific and Applied Fleet Research and the Marine Corps to develop autonomous and supporting technologies necessary to complete the assessment of large and super-large NLAs.

A program called CLAWS will focus on platform autonomy regarding situational awareness, decision making and assessment of autonomic capabilities.

Autonomous and sensory technologies are explored in the so-called 1 technology area. The work will include the definition and development of autonomous characteristics, functional equipment, demonstration and evaluation at sea. Requirements for the work of large and super-large NLAs in coastal waters, the open sea and difficult coastal conditions will be determined. The autonomous functions of large and super-large NLAs requested by the military will include data collection, implementation in a given area, sensors and systems for collecting oceanographic data.

The focus of the 2 process area is to create operator confidence in the operation of the machine in all possible operating conditions. For this, the necessary elements will be created so that the operator can safely perform the necessary operations, ranging from scheduling a task and ending with raising the apparatus from the water.

Technological zones 1 and 2 with a duration from 6 to 12 months will receive funding from 500 thousand to one million dollars.

While the Department of Defense is conducting its research on systems, subsystems, and technologies for LDUUV and XLUUV, Boeing and Lockheed Martin continue to develop their platforms.

Boeing built the Echo Voyager with a length of 15,5 meters, the largest in the Echo family. The device develops a maximum speed of 14,8 km / h and can sink to a depth of 3000 meters.

According to Lance Towers, director of programs for modern technologies at Boeing, in the middle of 2017, the Echo Voyager platform passed the first tests off the coast of California, after which it is ready for the next tests.

In these tests, the company will check the advanced subsystems and general characteristics of the device. Boeing will continue to use Echo Voyager to assess and refine the composition of the required target loads. The platform will become an advanced test model for testing new features and the basis for serial devices.

According to Towers, the Echo Voyager is unique in its collapsible mast with the automatic AIS recognition system for identifying ships at sea using satellite or military satellite communications and a snorkel.

Most NLA have no mast, some have either fixed or retractable mast. The mast of the Echo Voyager is very much like a knife with a discarded blade. When the device is under water, the mast is laid in the outlines of its hull. However, as the Echo Voyager ascends, the mast 4,8 meters in height rises above the water by about 2,4 meters.

In addition to the AIS system and communications, the Echo Voyager mast provides air-powered diesel generators that recharge the device’s batteries. After charging the batteries and exchanging data, the mast folds and the NPA sinks under water and continues its work.

Boeing's Echo Voyager NPA has a folding mast that rises from a submerged position and rises above the water. It has an AIS system, a conventional or military satellite communications system, and a snorkel to supply air to the generators that charge the platform batteries.

The propulsion system of the Echo Voyager is powered by commercial lithium batteries. NPA can work under water 2-3 of the day with the full operation of the propulsion system and sensors, then it should float for the outside air, which is necessary to charge the batteries.

After the 2-3 days of working underwater, the Echo Voyager can float, with enough energy to safely dive in an emergency. The battery charge at normal speed is enough for about 280 km.

Towers noted that other types of batteries are also available with a higher specific energy consumption, so that the NPA can work under water for longer periods of time. At the same time, Boeing claims that the batteries available on the Echo Voyager platform are enough to work under water for several days.

In addition, with one tank per 3785 liters of diesel fuel, the Echo Voyager can go 12038 km (6500 nautical miles). The sailing range can be doubled by installing additional fuel tanks in the compartment for the target cargo.

“You can easily work out 90 days on a single fuel tank with a constantly running propulsion system,” said Towers. - You can turn off the engine, lower the apparatus to the bottom, throwing out the anchor, and let it monitor the situation with its sensors. In this position, the Echo Voyager can remain for a long time. ”

Boeing has in its arsenal a proven software that controls autonomous capabilities, which allows Echo Voyager to safely operate in a submerged position. This software uses solutions implemented not only in other normative legal acts of the Echo family, but also autonomous technologies that the company has developed for aircraft and surface vessels. “Boeing has worked this technology in such a way that, at the moment, the Echo Voyager is able to detect objects in front of it and knows what kind of maneuver and avoid a collision,” added Towers.

On the surface of the water, NAP relies on the AIS system and additional autonomous capabilities, such as software loaded into the UAV, to prevent collisions with other aircraft.

Unlike the UAVs, the LAs move less quickly, only a few knots per hour. This huge speed difference allowed Boeing to effectively use collision avoidance modes for underwater conditions.

The volume of the target load of the Echo Voyager depends entirely on the desires of customers. The device has a compartment with a length of 10,3 meter and a width of 2,6 meter, where you can place equipment with a volume of 56,63 м3.

Based on the fact that the company Boeing has a family of large NLA, it is quite possible that she considers her Echo Ranger as an option for the LDUUV project.

“The operational characteristics of the LDUUV are different from those of the Echo Ranger, but if the fleet starts the competition for LDUUV, we can use all our experience gained with the Echo family,” said Towers. “The more we can reuse something, the better, because every time we start something from scratch, we reinvent the wheel, relying on things that may not be entirely correct.” Therefore, the physical dimensions of the proposed device will be close to the size of the Echo Ranger, of course, if the requirements remain the same. ”

For example, offline software and many constructive things can be reused. But at the same time, Boeing can choose cheaper materials, since LDUUV does not need to work at a depth of more than 3000 meters.

For its part, Lockheed Martin, in developing Orca XLUUV, uses the experience of developing non-crew systems, autonomous modes and underwater communications. Lockheed Martin has the ability to conduct hardware and software testing of software solutions for its XLUUV platform. In the past, the company worked on the tasks on the "land" before sending the uninhabited apparatus to the sea for testing.

The company stated that “this significantly speeds up the process, since there is an opportunity to solve problems during modeling, including computer modeling, which is much easier to get the model out to sea, to return, to later identify and solve problems, and then to go to sea again.”

Currently, due to the emergence of potential opponents of the latest technologies and the expansion of the spectrum of threats, the need for large PPA is growing. Larger systems will allow the fleet to increase the capabilities of its submarine forces at an acceptable cost. Many experts believe that as technology advances, there will be a growing need for larger, uninhabited submersible vehicles that will be able to fill in some gaps in combat capabilities that are not able to fill manned platforms.

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  1. Andrey Yuryevich
    Andrey Yuryevich 11 October 2018 05: 44
    US-China Confrontation Matures and they will probably squeeze us out of the oceans at such a pace.
    1. Jerk
      Jerk 11 October 2018 08: 23
      There is nothing to squeeze out there.
      But it is true that the bias towards the Navy shows that the vector in the USA has shifted to the sea, which is in our favor, actually.
      1. Vladimir 5
        Vladimir 5 21 December 2018 20: 01
        Jerk .. For our fleet, it’s somehow restless, in these situations, especially for the nuclear submarines, the basis of our triad .... Americans, according to the old habit, put on the fleet, but they should defend the main goals on land ...
        And with the development of NPAs, their vulnerability increases, and the ocean will no longer be a guarantee of US invulnerability. With a printing press and capabilities, the United States will break through in this area without fail. Only a powerful link between the Russian Federation and the PRC will scare away any attacks by NATO and their satellites with new weapons ...
        1. Jerk
          Jerk 21 December 2018 23: 22
          For your not in courses. Fleet - he is his world. Ours do not fight, we live, we live, we will live. But to carve a thrush, believe me, this ... Do you know who they even called banderlogs before the Maidan? Mouse taka
  2. 501Legion
    501Legion 11 October 2018 07: 22
    Huge article. thanks for reading
  3. The comment was deleted.
  4. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 11 October 2018 10: 03
    First you need to master small unmanned submarines that can protect large surface ships from torpedo attacks.
    1. Gray brother
      Gray brother 11 October 2018 10: 34
      Quote: voyaka uh
      First you need to master small unmanned submarines that can protect large surface ships from torpedo attacks.

      Isn’t it easier to release a torpedo immediately?
      1. Newone
        Newone 11 October 2018 22: 22
        Range. Using a drone expands the area of ​​destruction of a torpedo by a torpedo by 3 times (ideally of course).
  5. san4es
    san4es 11 October 2018 10: 55
    The large volume of the cargo compartment allows these anti-aircraft guns to deploy underwater mines or smaller vehicles ...
  6. Imobile
    Imobile 11 October 2018 20: 03
    Soon, US citizens will be having no soldiers will conquer the country. Without losses, therefore, no one inside will not mind.
  7. Vladimir Postnikov
    Vladimir Postnikov 12 October 2018 00: 37
    Everything could be different in 1999-2002.
    “To citizen V.P. Plotnikov
    21 January 2000 No740 / 36
    Dear Vladimir Pavlovich!
    On behalf of the Office of the Government of the Russian Federation and the apparatus of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, your letter has been considered.
    A crewless underwater autonomous carrier of strategic weapons requires the creation of automated systems that exclude unauthorized use of weapons, airborne missile system equipment, and provide ship and coastal combat support and control systems, and the deployment of an acceptable power plant.
    These technical issues that determine the feasibility and costs of building your proposed system will not allow you to create a cheap underwater autonomous carrier of strategic weapons that has an acceptable cost of construction and its maintenance in the fleet. Your idea does not take into account the requirements of the START-1 Treaty, which excludes the deployment of sea-based ballistic missiles on such underwater autonomous carriers.
    Chairman of the Maritime Scientific Committee
    L. Sidorenko »

    My answer is Mr. Sidorenko from February 02 2000.

    “To the Chairman of the Maritime Scientific Committee of L. Sidorenko
    Re: Your letter of January 21 2000 No740 / 36.
    Dear Mr. Sidorenko,
    I didn’t win, but I lost. Not to the lottery, but to cards. And finally, not the Volga, but ten thousand.
    So briefly describe the essence of your aforementioned letter.
    I talked about the need to work, first of all, on the SFTS transport system, and not PAN carriers. The idea of ​​creating autonomous carriers was that PANs can be quickly created on the basis of the production of SFTS system cargo modules, where it will be possible to use “Fuel Cell” type of fuel cells (fuel cells) as an EC, the need for which will arise at the second stage of implementation SFTS systems (using money earned in the first stage). I would like to note that the revenue part of the minimum configuration of the SFTS system at the first stage (transit) can presumably be at least 150 million US dollars per year in hard currency. Moreover, I proposed not to build PAN, but to be able to build them if necessary, as soon as possible, and at the lowest cost (!).
    Pan does not require the creation of automated systems that exclude unauthorized use of weapons, because the launch of the PAN itself will be the authorized use of weapons, and not the launch of its missile.
    Yes, this is not a "gentleman's" type of weapon, however, like all types of mines, but if there is no money for a stamp, they write in simple. The main emphasis is on the “deterrence” factor (the most effective so far), which in this case will be even more effective due to the fact that between the authorized launch of the PAN carrier and the launch of its rocket can take days, weeks or even months, which would not once to think about any probable opponent before committing any act of aggression. (You should shoot everything!)
    Yes, my idea does not take into account the requirements of the START-1 Treaty, but read carefully, it was about
    a possible withdrawal of the United States from the ABM Treaty, and this issue was even discussed today between the heads of both diplomatic departments. It’s great if you have a worthy answer that will correspond to the current financial and technological capabilities of Russia.
    And in conclusion, I would once again ask you to be careful not only with the materials that you have to read, but also with the names of their authors, so that later questions do not arise such as: who is Plotnikov - a citizen, or a ship?
    Well, I was counting on support, "but it turned out as always."
    With wishes,
    V. Postnikov
    St. Petersburg"

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