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  • Navy Investing in Long-Endurance Unmanned Assets
    Posted by Paul McLeary 1:39 PM on Aug 26, 2010

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    Aviation Week’s Amy Butler has a great piece this morning about a speech the U.S. Navy's Commander of Naval Operations Gary Roughead gave yesterday in Denver, in which he decried a “capabilities gap” in the Navy’s unmanned air and sea assets--while promising to do something about it.

    There has been some action as of late in the Navy’s attitude toward unmanned assets. Back in July, AvWeek’s Bettina Chavanne reported that the Navy unveiled it’s brand-new unmanned maritime vehicle (UMV) office, which was designed to bring together traditional acquisition activities and advanced development n a single shop. Program manager Capt. Duane Ashton described the office’s function as being “to coordinate [unmanned vehicle acquisition] efforts and then direct specific experimentation and technology maturation.” The Navy hasn’t updated its official public doctrine on unmanned sea assets since 2004 when it released its Master UUV Plan, although word is that a revised document is due later this year.

    As for Roughead’s talk, Amy reports that while Roughead said that UUVs are “potential game-changers” in how the Navy conducts its operations, there is no talk of untethering them from the fleet, meaning that they will still require links to nearby Navy assets. “We do not have the luxury, even if we have the desire,” for unmanned systems to operate independently, Roughead said. But then the Adm. dropped his big announcement:
    In the Navy’s Fiscal 2012 budget proposal sent to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Roughead says he wants to spend about 50% of available UUV research and development money on improving their endurance. Ultimately, he would like to see 3-4 weeks of endurance and reserve power for some higher-speed maneuvers and to handle strong underwater currents.
    Once the power problem is solved, Roughead says he wants to tackle how to bring UUV into a larger Navy information network despite their ability to travel vast distances on missions.
    Also in the 2012 budget proposal, Roughead says he is planning to “enhance and restore electronic warfare dominance,” for the military. This mission area has suffered from wavering support from the Air Force and Navy. He also says he plans to push for restoring the information dominance expertise required to be successful in today’s fights.
    Now we wait for the updated UUV strategy to be released so we can see just how far the Navy plans on taking this idea.

    (Photo: Search and salvage specialists  deploy an unmanned underwater vehicle into the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Navy)

    Tags: navy, UUV, ar99

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