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A UXV Mother Ship Proposed
Norman Polmar | September 22, 2007
British-based BAE Systems is proposing a sea-going mother ship for unmanned vehicles (UXV) of various types.  A BAE news release sent out a few days ago describes the new warship as “the UXV Combatant, designed to operate in a future battle space dominated by land, sea and air unmanned vehicles. Using a proven naval hull form to launch, operate and recover large numbers of small unmanned vehicles for extended periods, the UXV plays the role of mother ship -- a permanent base and control centre for the futuristic unmanned land, sea and air vehicles. . . .”

An artist’s concept of the 8,000-tonne warship shows a low-observable (stealth) design with two large island structures amidships, recessed missile launchers forward, and a large flight deck area aft for operating Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV).  The ship’s hull and combat systems will be a development of the Type 45 destroyer.

The first Type 45 destroyer -- HMS Daring -- is now on sea trials.  The Royal Navy plans to procure eight of these ships, which have a full-load displacement of some 7,350 tonnes and are 500 feet in length.  The gun/missile-armed ship has helicopter facilities.

The UXV support ship, apparently based on an enlarged Type 45 design, will have a lower hangar deck for storing and maintaining UAVs, while the two flight decks will have a variable ski-jump ramp to accelerate the launch of heavily loaded UAVs.

The ship would also support Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV).

While the Royal Navy has made no commitment to construct such a ship, BAE Systems believes that a UXV support ship could be operational by 2020.

The U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program that is now underway provides for at least three LCS mission configurations -- anti-surface craft, anti-submarine, and mine countermeasures.  All of these configurations will make extensive use of UAVs and, depending upon the configuration, will also operate surface and underwater unmanned vehicles.

The U.S. Navy is also developing a large, carrier-based Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle (UCAV) based on the technology demonstrator designated X-47B. Developed by Northrop Grumman, the UCAV derived from the X-47B will be a multi-mission aircraft with a flying-wing configuration. It will operate from large-deck aircraft carriers. They will operate employing arresting gear and catapults, as do manned aircraft, and they will be integrated into conventional carrier air wings.

But the proposed BAE Systems’ UXV support ship will -- with the U.S. Navy’s LCS program -- be the world’s first specialized ships for operating unmanned vehicles.  These will certainly lead to a marked change in the nature of naval operations.

Sound Off...What do you think? Join the discussion.

Copyright 2013 Norman Polmar. All opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of Military.com.

About Norman Polmar

NORMAN POLMAR has been a consultant to several senior officials in the Navy and Department of Defense, and has directed several studies for U.S. and foreign shipbuilding and aerospace firms. Mr. Polmar has been a consultant to the Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Mr. Polmar also served as a consultant to three U.S. Senators and to two members of the House of Representatives, as a consultant or advisor to three Secretaries of the Navy and two Chiefs of Naval Operations, and as a consultant to the Deputy Counselor to President Reagan.
Mr. Polmar has written or coauthored more than 40 books and numerous articles on naval, intelligence, and aviation subjects.  His comparative analysis of U.S. and Soviet submarine design and construction, COLD WAR SUBMARINES, written in collaboration with Mr. Kenneth J. Moore and the Russian submarine design bureaus RUBIN and MALACHITE, was published in late 2003.

For the past three decades he has been author of the reference books Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet and Guide to the Soviet Navy.  

Mr. Polmar’s articles and comments appear frequently in various newspapers and periodicals and he is a columnist for the Proceedings and Naval History magazines, both published by the U.S. Naval Institute.

From 1967 to 1977 Mr. Polmar was editor of the United States and several other sections of the annual Jane's Fighting Ships.

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