Navy Eyes Unmanned Vehicles for Dangerous Missions
Textron Land and Marine System has successfully demonstrated its Custom Unmanned Surface Vessel, which it aims to sell to the US Navy to perform risky missions like minesweeping and approaching enemy sea vessels. (Source: Textron)
I believe in the Navy's mind the functionality and usefulness of the platform is going to depend heavily on what existing weapons packages it can deliver -- almost all of which are less-feasibly deployed on any platform which is significantly smaller. Any approach which reduces the procurement cycle time to achieve weapons on the water (WITHOUT locking us into an early-obsolescence cycle) has a positive design criteria satisfaction gradient -- and iterating toward smaller special purpose platforms is STILL feasible.
I'm still anticipating the RP-jetski with various alternative load packages of torpedo and drone launchers, and probably a range of warhead delivery options.
I'm surprised that they appear to be aiming at full-sized versions of existing ships (39' in this case). The Air Force, on the other hand seems to be concentrating their efforts on drones that are substantially smaller than the manned version. Is there a reason for this?
The advantage I see here is that the Navy can complement their other efforts with these type of devices. For example, the current push is to get away from the massive battleship size and focus on the newer littoral combat ships, which allow action much closer to land and up smaller rivers. It seems that, properly scaled, these could enhance those capabilities in the same way the drones have done for the Air Force.
That is is nice test in calm water. It's much more impressive if you have a crew on board in rough seas.
If you check the other videos, you will see some of the boat handling training in rough water with 4 or 5 crew members onboard. I recall a show on Discovery Channel or History Channel that showed a boat roll over and right itself in the rough conditions while doing training. The crew was 'strapped in' for their safety and survival.
The flotation systems are passive. The weight and flotation are distributed to have the boat turn uptight. (Many weighted keel sailboats will do this, too.) As for the other systems on the boat, I must defer to others.
The Coast Guard has had some self-righting boats for several years. The 47 foot motor life boats have been in service since 1997. This boat self-rights in 15 seconds with all equipment fully functional. The new 45 foot medium response boat that began entering service in 2008 is self-righting but is not designed for conditions as severe as the motor life boat.
I wonder how many other areas this concept could be used in, Beth. So far there is the Air Force and UAVs, the Navy and water-based UOVs (unmanned ocean vehicles), nuclear remote robots, and mine-detecting/mine destroying robots. There must be unlimited opportunities for the next Steve Jobs who will find the next application. I hope I'm him...
On Memorial Day, Americans remember the sacrifices the US armed forces have made, and continue to make, in service to the country. All of us should also consider the developments in technological capabilities and equipment over the years that contribute to the success of our military operations.
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