Navy’s Unmanned Boat Now Features 50-Caliber Machine Gun

The Navy and Textron showed off for the first time a weaponized prototype of a small unmanned surface vessel (USV) designed to revolutionize sea warfare, May 6, 2019. (Military.com photo/Richard Sisk)
The Navy and Textron showed off for the first time a weaponized prototype of a small unmanned surface vessel (USV) designed to revolutionize sea warfare, May 6, 2019. (Military.com photo/Richard Sisk)

The Navy and Textron showed off for the first time Monday a weaponized prototype of a small unmanned surface vessel (USV) designed to revolutionize sea warfare.

Textron principal systems engineer Gary Hartman said the display of the 40-foot Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, docked at the annual Sea-Air-Space Exposition at National Harbor, Maryland, is the first of the boat mounted with a 50-caliber machine gun and a housing for Hellfire missiles.

The weapons display is the outgrowth of the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement signed last year by Naval Sea Systems Command and Textron "to develop and integrate surface warfare payloads onto the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle."

According to the agreement, "the payloads will include various missiles, designators, sensors, and remote weapon stations."

The weapons are part of what Hartman called an "expeditionary warfare package" for the CUSV, but he stressed that the display is intended only to show possible future capabilities. "As an initial package, there's not a lot of appetite for it" currently, he said.

Hartman said the CUSV itself is a program of record with the Navy, but there is no timeline for when the systems will be deployed.

The CUSV was initially developed to be carried aboard Littoral Combat Ships and launched to conduct countermine and surveillance operations. The missions can be programmed into the CUSV, and radars and other sensors aboard alert the mother ship to what the CUSV finds, Hartman said.

Hartman noted that the CUSV is programmed to be compliant with the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs).

The CUSV, which is capable of 30 knots and has a range of 400 nautical miles, will independently pass behind an approaching vessel and then resume its original mission direction, he said.

During countermine activities, when it is programmed to stick to a given course, the CUSV will independently slow to allow the approaching vessel to pass and "then get back on track," Hartman said.

The CUSV's COLREG-compliant feature also has possible applications for manned Navy surface vessels, he said. "It doesn't lose focus; it doesn't lose attention," as sailors might.

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-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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