Military Review

For the sake of uninhabited platforms, the US Navy is ready to give up to many


The U.S. Navy's Marine Research Department is currently finalizing a prototype of the Sea Hunter’s low-cost, medium-sized, long-life missile that can be configured for various payloads.

Although much has been written about the surface strategy fleet The United States and the desire to increase the number of ships, no less strongly his desire to shift the focus on the use of uninhabited surface combat weapons.

In 2020, the U.S. Navy plans to complete a couple of significant projects aimed at accelerating the adoption of uninhabited surface vehicles (NNA) as a part of the surface combat fleet, which is a notable modernization initiative with the prospect of a radical reformatting of the naval forces, long-term plans for shipbuilding, as well as tactical receptions and methods of warfare.

One of the issues that is planned to be solved in the first half of this year is determining the configuration of the surface combat flotilla with special attention to how many and how large autonomous vessels the fleet needs, as well as to analyze with a focus on costs and organizational structure of forces. At the end of the year, it is planned to complete the development of the concept of combat use for NNA, which defines the main strategy for the adoption of autonomous combat vehicles equipped with missiles and sensors in the fleet.

This activity is the result of disagreements between the fleet and the Trump administration in December 2020 over long-term plans for the construction of ships. At the same time, the fleet opposed the reduction of 12 warships between 2021 and 2025 in order to redirect the saved 10 billion dollars to new priorities, including uninhabited systems. In response, the White House demanded that the fleet restore the proposed reductions. The outcome of these “swings” will be visible in the fleet’s budget request for fiscal year 2021, which was sent to Congress earlier this year.

Strategic transition

The background to current budgetary intrigues is the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which stipulates that the U.S. military, after nearly two decades of irregular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, focuses on a potential confrontation with China or Russia.

This strategy, especially its emphasis on the use of new technologies, such as autonomy and artificial intelligence, forces the US fleet to actively engage in the development of its uninhabited platforms and the principles of their combat use.

The US Navy currently has 293 warships in its composition and plans to increase this number to 355 units, although this could take about ten years, subject to stable and generous funding, which has not yet been available. historical precedents. As the incumbent US Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modley, admitted last September, "This cannot be done within a reasonable time frame." But in December he said: “The fleet is too small. Our capabilities are based on a small number of huge ships and this needs to be changed over time. "

Despite the fact that the Navy takes into account the low rate of increase in the fleet, they are developing a new concept in support of the National Defense Strategy, called "dispersed naval operations", which provides for a wider distribution of the fleet in the era of confrontation between the great powers.

“In order to get such dispersal — and the ability to create this dispersal — we need more platforms to deploy more weapon systems and sensors,” said Pete Small, Program Manager for Marine Uninhabited Systems. “Uninhabited systems come into play here.”

The fleet is looking at the potential of the medium and large NNA fleet regarding the installation of missiles and sensors on them (currently widely installed on crew vessels), which allows these platforms to be sent to unsafe disputed areas with less risk.

The plans provide for the addition of a manned surface fleet to these platforms without any replacement for the current traditional warships.

Balance the concept of containment

China and Russia have invested heavily in the development of capabilities, for example, long-range air defense, high-precision ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines and long-range radars, as well as in sophisticated operational control systems that can be directed in one way or another to deployed American forces. The fleet believes that it will be able to partially balance these so-called A2 / AD capabilities (Anti-Access / Area Denial - the concept of deterring the enemy (usually a set of weapons) by creating an increased danger for the deployment or movement of enemy forces in a protected area) by adopting platforms like NNA.

For example, in the Navy they are studying what can be achieved if the destroyer DDG-51 of the “Arly Burke” class works in tandem with a large NNA armed with missiles and an average NNA equipped with sensor kits. “We can send the average NNA closer or even inside the A2 / AD zone and make them the sensor nodes that we need to send information from this zone to the inhabited platforms,” said Small. - Further, based on this information, the habitable platform now has more options, acting in conjunction with a large NNA, since a large NNA adds more features. And he offers various concepts of target designation and firing, which were not available when you had only one inhabited platform. "

He continued:

“Now operational space is opening up for these expensive crewed destroyers, which are the hallmark of our surface capabilities. One surface inhabited platform that should do everything - detection, target designation and firing - can now distribute these functions on more platforms, including medium and large NNAs. She can give someone detection or target designation or firing, you have more options. In this scenario, you can fire from a destroyer or a large NNA. ”

This dispersed configuration gives the US military much more options when performing a combat mission and vice versa creates more problems for the enemy. "And this turns into an increased advantage in this combat scenario."

Alternative analysis

The representative of the Office of surface combat operations in the structure of the US Navy noted that they conducted an assessment lasting a whole year, the results of which will give recommendations on the ratio of inhabited and uninhabited ships in the fleet. It is expected that the analysis currently being discussed by fleet and command commanders will help determine for the future fleet a combination of large surface ships (e.g. destroyers and cruisers), small surface combat ships (e.g. coastal combat ships and the planned FFG (X) frigate) as well as large and medium NNAs.

To date, the fleet has developed a “pyramid concept” with large surface ships — most of them powerful and expensive platforms — at the top, supported by a large number of smaller surface ships, which are multitasking but cheaper. The next in the scheme may be a larger number of large NNAs, which, while not being as functionally capable as small surface warships, can deliver a powerful impact at a lower cost. Finally, the pyramids are based on the most inexpensive medium NNAs in this combination, and therefore the fleet can afford to purchase them in large quantities.

A 60-meter-long al-Basra-class support vessel designed for Iraq can be offered in a crewless version as the basis for large American Navy

The data from this assessment will help formulate long-term plans for the costs and construction of fleet ships, which are planned to be implemented in 2022.

However, it should be borne in mind that over the past 25 years, although the US Navy has paid attention to uninhabited technologies for air, surface and underwater tasks, they have relatively slowly adopted such systems.

“From a historical point of view, the fleet generally adhered to a balanced and not always quick approach to uninhabited technology. This refers to the inclusion of an unmanned aircraft in the aircraft carrier, and then of course to the surface and underwater areas. This is undoubtedly a serious challenge - to accept a large number of large and medium NNAs into the fleet. ”

Design progress

The US Navy launches new development and procurement projects for large and medium-sized NNAs, although some of these projects were not originally intended for it. This is due to the fact that the Navy command has now set itself the goal of obtaining a more diverse fleet.

In 2010, the DARPA Office began designing an uninhabited ship based on the premise that a person would not step aboard at any stage of the operations cycle. This project has evolved into the ACTUV (Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) submarine anti-submarine program. Leidos has committed to building and testing an experimental platform to demonstrate the technical feasibility of autonomous vessels operating in a theater of flight or potentially global distances.

In 2018, a prototype ACTUV trimaran was named Sea Hunter and transferred to the Office of Naval Research, after which the Navy talked about its huge potential, which could bring qualitatively new capabilities to the fleet.

The Sea Hunter project gave impetus to the implementation of plans for a low-cost average NNA with a long duration of work, which could be configured for various types of target loads. The primary concern for this class is electronic warfare, as well as intelligence and information gathering.

The fleet's budget request for 2020 states:

“Medium-sized NNAs will support the fleet’s ability to produce, deploy and distribute sufficient electronic warfare and intelligence / intelligence capabilities and provide / improve distributed situational awareness in marine areas of responsibility. Medium NNAs will be designed as cheaper, requiring minimal maintenance platforms, capable of participating in conflicts with an equal or almost equal rival. Medium-sized NNAs will initially be able to carry out semi-autonomous operations with operators in or out of the control loop. ” In July 2019, the fleet published proposals for average NNAs. “The contract for one prototype of the average NNA should be issued in early 2020,” said Small. “The average NNA is a good example, in it we use the vast experience that has already been gained in the development of autonomous surface vehicles of various classes.”

Size increase

Similarly, the fleet deals with large NNAs, for example, three years ago, the Ghost Fleet Overlord program was launched in the bowels of the US Department of Defense. Within the framework of this project, commercial fast delivery ships used by the oil and gas industry for servicing offshore drilling rigs are adapted and converted into experimental large NPAs in order to use the volume intended for commercial cargo for modular combat target loads.

In September 2019, Phase 1 of the Ghost Fleet Overlord program was completed. In this phase, the two industry groups involved in the project, led by Gibbs & Cox and L3 ASV, have redesigned a pair of existing fast delivery vessels into NVA, including autonomous systems integration, demonstration of seaworthy autonomy and over 600 hours of testing.

Under the Ghost Fleet Overlord program, two commercial supply vessels converted to NNA are currently being tested.

Stage 2 began in October 2019 and will continue until the fall of 2021. According to the US Navy, it focuses on the integration of operational management systems and target loads. “This new phase allows us to conduct additional reliability tests, integrate autonomy systems and deepen the integration of state-provided operational management systems that are designed for medium and large NNAs,” said Small. “All this experience gained in the Overlord Stage 2 program will be used in our work on medium and large NNAs.”

Parallel project

In parallel with the Overlord program, the fleet is implementing a parallel project to develop a large NNA on the basis of a vessel 60-90 meters long with a displacement of about 2000 tons. In September, he issued proposals for a large apparatus, which said: "A reconfigurable vessel with a long sailing time, capable of accepting various target loads for uninhabited tasks in order to complement the capabilities of inhabited surface ships of the American fleet."

“Having a large carrying capacity, large NNAs will conduct a variety of combat operations independently or in conjunction with crewed surface combat ships. Large NNAs will be able to carry out semi-autonomous operations with operators in the control loop (remote control) or outside the loop (due to the high level of autonomy), "

- says the proposal of the fleet.

“We are currently evaluating a number of proposals in the context of the concept of a major NNA,” added Small. “We will issue several orders to a number of industrial enterprises, which will help us further develop the requirements and concepts of a large NNA with an integrated launcher.”

The goal is to issue the first major NPA contracts by 2023 as part of this priority program. Congress allocated budget funds for two large surface vehicles, which the fleet requested for 2020 (ships will be in the Overlord configuration), but at the moment it has strongly forbidden the fleet to integrate the vertical launch system into a large NNA. The US Navy intends to use these additional vessels to increase the volume of experiments and gain experience, as well as the development of an integrated solution.

Program Promotion

Along with its large NNA programs, the U.S. Navy is implementing long-term plans for the purchase of uninhabited surface and underwater systems, which appeared before the National Defense Strategy 2018.

In August 2019, small-scale production of the Knifefish uninhabited underwater vehicle (NPA), designed to detect submarine mines deployed from warships, began.

Last November, the operational evaluation of the Unmanned Influence Sweeping System manufactured by Textron was completed; this year a decision should be made on his future fate, possibly on the start of mass production.

Two Razorback airbags, based on the Hydroid project, were delivered in July 2019 to the so-called Squadron of Uninhabited Submarines No. 1 in Washington State.

Boeing, having teamed up with Huntington Ingalls, received a contract for the construction of five super-large air-raids, the first of which should be delivered in 2021.

The Newport Submarine Warfare Center oversees the production of a prototype of the Snakehead large displacement prototype, which is scheduled to be launched in 2021.

Industry Senses

This trend of development of smaller platforms means that, most likely, the fleet’s plans for building ships and, in a broader sense, the industrial base are changing.

“It’s very interesting, the oversaturated market can really change what has supported the status quo in shipbuilding for 40 years, or maybe longer,” said Small. - We are waiting for new challenges and opportunities related to the very aggressive competition of all these latest platforms or new types of tasks. I believe a lot will come down to what requirements and standards the fleet is going to set for these unconventional ships and vehicles and this will really determine the rules of the game for all participants in a highly competitive market. ”

New organization

In 2020, the U.S. Navy should undoubtedly take up the study of issues related to the integration of these unconventional platforms into the fleet.

In order to prepare for the adoption of the NNA, the fleet in May 2019 organized a new unit - the SURFDEVRON (Development Development Squadron) 1 surface fleet development squadron in San Diego. The task of the new unit, in particular, is to support development work and accelerate the development of new combat capabilities and concepts.

One of the first projects is the development of official principles for the combat use of NNA, which is planned to be completed during 2020. “This is a big step,” said Henry Adams, SURFDEVRON ONE squadron commander. “There is still a lot of work ahead and it will take a lot of time, but I think we should all finish by the end of this year.”

This document will become the organizational operational basis for how the fleet should operate the NNA. “The principles of combat use will pull everything from logistics to maintenance and operation of the system on the high seas. Therefore, we have a lot of work to do this year. ”

In December, the fleet transferred all responsibility for the Sea Hunter apparatus from the Marine Research Directorate to SURFDEVRON. The San Diego Command is now responsible for the existing single average NNA. Upon completion of construction at the end of 2020, the second Sea Hunter will also be transferred to the SURFDEVRON squad.

“This 2020 fleet of two vessels, which has just barely fledged, will be used to develop an initial set of methods and procedures, recruitment, training, equipment and work with NNA,” Adams noted, noting that this will create the basis for starting certification of NNA operators. “It's just a matter of gradual improvement, it's getting better, better and better.”

At the end of 2021, the SURFDEVRON detachment will take on balance from the Strategic Opportunity Office two prototypes of large NNAs, after which this experimental unit will have at its disposal two medium and two large devices. This will help the fleet move faster to the planned deliveries of such platforms.

In addition to developing procedures and techniques to integrate NNA into the fleet, the SURFDEVRON ONE detachment plans to conduct some experiments. “I intend to concentrate on working at sea as tightly as possible so that it is easier to implement the planned program,” Adams said. - A plan for experimental and experimental work is being developed. In addition, several experiments are planned to coordinate the work of crew and crewless platforms. ”

All signs indicate that the U.S. Navy ultimately intends to withdraw uninhabited surface combat vessels to large water, and this will be of great importance for the fleet and its industrial base.
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  1. Vasily Ponomarev
    Vasily Ponomarev 15 May 2020 18: 07 New
    > although this may take about ten years, provided there is stable and generous funding for which there is no historical precedent yet
    uh, reagan? 600 ships? plus 72 ships in 8 years, no?
  2. kashcheevo egg
    kashcheevo egg 15 May 2020 18: 07 New
    I want a toy! the American Navy screamed. On you, child, just do not roar, answered the US Ministry of Defense. And so always .... Typing is not a problem at all ...
    1. Thunderbolt
      Thunderbolt 15 May 2020 19: 33 New
      Quote: kashcheyevo egg
      I want a toy! the American Navy screamed. On you, child, just do not roar, answered the US Ministry of Defense. And so always .... Typing is not a problem at all ...

      But how not to give? Presence at the nodal points of the ocean and ensuring the safety of communications --- they still work out with WWII and brought it almost to modern perfection. The teachers were good --- the German and Japanese Imperial Navy.
      Typing is not a problem at all.
      As for the quality of their dollars, I can’t say anything against our Tugriks. But I will say one note --- while we are buying their dollar bonds / unnecessarily. it is really profitable for business /, then a penny broken by a heel in a penny for a ruble is penniless. Or maybe a chervonets offer or a Carbovanian / joke ... / Do not be offended by me, but at the moment only the USA has proposed a project on the strength of investments. Soviet Russia at that moment threw out a very worthy layer of financial intelligence
      1. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
        Andrei from Chelyabinsk 16 May 2020 14: 08 New
        Quote: Thunderbolt
        Do not be offended by me, but at the moment only the United States has proposed a project on the strength of investment. Soviet Russia at that moment threw out a very worthy layer of financial intelligence

        The dominance of the US dollar is not at all connected with investments.
        1. Thunderbolt
          Thunderbolt 16 May 2020 15: 21 New
          Quote: Andrey from Chelyabinsk
          The dominance of the US dollar is not at all connected with investments.

          Such tales tell the destroyed Z. Europe. NATO, because it is not only a scarecrow on the front line, but also 2 more things that hold together glue and investment. The glue is good --- the Franco-German world does not fight among themselves. And in connection with the destruction of the sanitary a cordon from former socialist countries, Germany invested its investments in Eastern Europe .. Now Poland’s investments in Ukraine, for example, work for Germany, but the USA also collects sediment. A dollar is a commodity like oil or soldiers. Politics is a dirty business and the dollar is the most a reliable tool. Go with cherenks pay for a can of cola, go show the ruble in the terminal that the US company provides, for the goods that Coca-Cola, jobs and all that. Well, you understand.
          1. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
            Andrei from Chelyabinsk 16 May 2020 16: 46 New
            Quote: Thunderbolt
            Such tales tell the destroyed Z. Europe.

            Europe knows very well where the world currency comes from, why should it tell something? You do not know.
            Quote: Thunderbolt
            Go with cherenks pay for a can of cola, go show the ruble in the terminal that the company provides the USA

            And instead of sending me somewhere, let's go and teach a story. Then you will find out that the pound was actually the world currency before the dollar, despite the fact that there were no special UK investments in Europe.
            1. Thunderbolt
              Thunderbolt 16 May 2020 23: 34 New
              It was for the dollar and the investment. There is nothing to answer you, well, as expected, As they say, good luck
              1. Andrei from Chelyabinsk
                Andrei from Chelyabinsk 17 May 2020 00: 12 New
                Quote: Thunderbolt
                It was for a dollar and an investment.

                And I told you that they are completely unconnected.
                Quote: Thunderbolt
                You have nothing to answer, well, as expected,

                Actually, there was an answer to you - I gave you an example of the world currency - the pound sterling - which was considered as such but at the same time its issuer did not make any serious investments in Europe. Accordingly, the world currency is quite possible without investment. But you preferred not to notice this my answer.
  3. Vasily Ponomarev
    Vasily Ponomarev 15 May 2020 18: 12 New
    > Iraqi-designed al-Basra class support vessel
    if I am not mistaken, these ships were built in tampa, Florida?
  4. Asad
    Asad 15 May 2020 18: 39 New
    When will these mattresses choke !?
  5. Operator
    Operator 15 May 2020 19: 18 New
    Unemployment in the United States reached the level of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

    American rogues are simply not able to finance their fleet bully
    1. Lopatov
      Lopatov 15 May 2020 21: 39 New
      Quote: Operator
      American rogues are simply not able to finance their fleet

      This is more about financing its "arms lords", for which the United States will always have the money.
      They are likely to cut back on the content of sailors.
  6. AllBiBek
    AllBiBek 15 May 2020 19: 23 New
    On board such a ship, no one will put fear in their pants when Drying with an imitation of attack comes on them. This is a minus.
    After using electronic warfare means against the expensive "smart trough", there will be just an expensive trough.
    This is a plus.
    1. Lopatov
      Lopatov 15 May 2020 21: 46 New
      Quote: AllBiBek
      After using electronic warfare against an expensive "smart trough"

      This is unlikely.
      Ships are much more resistant to electronic warfare than ground or airborne vehicles.
      1. volodimer
        volodimer 16 May 2020 11: 20 New
        Remembering the recent collisions of inhabited US Navy ships with a container ship and a tanker ... and also the Scandinavians ... (you can not remember about the joke with the lighthouse). Question: How safe will these NNAs be for shipping?
        By the way, what is no reason for hype in the world media ... But not ne5 will be, they are under the control of mattresses ....
        Rather, there will be hype that the Russians, with their EW, violated the control of these peaceful ships and created a dangerous situation.
  7. Klingon
    Klingon 16 May 2020 06: 33 New
    And how is our atomic Kraken? ... ominous silence in the depths of the sea and in the MO laughing
  8. voyaka uh
    voyaka uh 16 May 2020 13: 28 New
    The concept is correct: squadron destroyer headquarters advance
    unmanned reconnaissance systems with PLO systems and unmanned strikers from the Kyrgyz Republic.
    1. Ka-52
      Ka-52 18 May 2020 06: 56 New
      The concept is correct: squadron destroyer headquarters advance
      unmanned reconnaissance systems with PLO systems and unmanned strikers from the Kyrgyz Republic.

      Doubtful concept. For an ocean theater, the question is: how will NNA get there when they are seaworthy? With a displacement of 500 tons - it is hanging along the coast or the maximum of the Baltic / Mediterranean Sea.
      1. voyaka uh
        voyaka uh 18 May 2020 11: 09 New
        Therefore do trimarans. To withstand the ocean wave.
        1. Ka-52
          Ka-52 18 May 2020 11: 21 New
          Therefore do trimarans. To withstand the ocean wave.

          trimaran is good as a light reconnaissance vessel. For a large vessel, which will be the carrier of missile defense and shock, it will not have enough structural rigidity. For example, the same USS Independence is just a literal ship by definition. Although its displacement for 2000 exceeds. This is my dummy opinion
          1. voyaka uh
            voyaka uh 18 May 2020 11: 50 New
            "For example, the same USS Independence is just a literal ship
            by definition. "////
            LCS trimarans drove back and forth across the Pacific into a storm.
            For check. This is quite an ocean corvette.
            1. Ka-52
              Ka-52 18 May 2020 12: 22 New
              For check. This is quite an ocean corvette.

              Well, according to the rules, stability is checked by tests, and not "drove through the" Pacific Ocean ". You know about that)
              1. voyaka uh
                voyaka uh 18 May 2020 12: 30 New
                Testing on 1/5 1/10 magnitude models is one thing.
                A real ocean storm is different.
                Last year, Zumvolt was driven specifically into a winter storm.
                near Alaska. To check how he behaves among multi-meter
                waves. It turned out: better than the Ticonderoga and Burke. Less pitching, longer
                retains the ability to launch missiles.
                1. Ka-52
                  Ka-52 18 May 2020 12: 46 New
                  Last year, Zumvolt was driven specifically into a winter storm.

                  Zumvolt was tested in tests only for pitching, but not transverse. The TK test was a test with excitement equivalent to 4 points.
                  Near Alaska, the Zumvolt emnip was at the declared 6-point excitement. At the same time, going through the strait, he automatically walked with his nose to the surge. Therefore, this is not a "clean ocean", although the situation is close, but not equivalent. It's my opinion
                  1. agond
                    agond 18 May 2020 13: 21 New
                    And if everyone wants to build uninhabited ships, and then whose uninhabited submarine’s submarine sinks the inhabited cruise ship and no one recognizes it.
                  2. voyaka uh
                    voyaka uh 18 May 2020 13: 23 New
                    As you know, any ships are not weatherproof.
                    In a strong storm they do not start a naval battle, do not land
                    landing, do not lift planes into the air.
                    For missile ships, an important characteristic is:
                    at what wave can I let the CR. With this ship, of course,
                    put their nose to the wave. In the most favorable position.
                    Since the Zumvolts cut waves, rather than climb onto them, they
                    more battle-worthy than Burke in the same weather conditions.
                    1. Ka-52
                      Ka-52 19 May 2020 04: 18 New
                      Since the Zumvolts cut waves, rather than climb onto them, they
                      more battle-worthy than Burke in the same weather conditions.

                      I won’t argue, I’m not a sailor)) although something tells me that cutting through (and not climbing) a large ocean wave can give such a blow to the superstructures that only chips will fly from them. And I think you know the Zumvolt tuning material - crap in half with garbage. lol