Textron to Build Two ‘Pilot Line’ CUSVs for Minesweeping
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Textron, in the midst of testing its first Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) for the Navy, has been selected by the service to build two additional CUSVs for the minesweeping mission.
The CUSV is designed for deployment on board a littoral combat ship (LCS) to tow sensor and sweeping technology to detect and clear sea mines.
The Navy has ordered two CUSVs in what Textron calls “pilot line” models in advance of low-rate initial production (LRIP). The two are accelerated units from the six LRIP units in the Navy’s options. Delivery of the two is expected by 2018.
“Those boats are going to be delivered with a minesweeping capability in line with the program of record that we’re working on with the U.S. Navy — the UISS [Unmanned Influence Sweep System] program, said Wayne Prender, vice president of Textron’s Control and Surface Systems. “They will also have the ability to be used in the mine sensing scenario. Those orders are going to allow us to continue production of the crafts and implement a new capability onto the boat which extends the U.S. Navy’s mine countermeasures s(MCM) sweep of capabilities on the CUSV.
“Since the beginning of the year, we have completed our initial underway activities which took place in our shipyard near Slidell, La., with our sister company Marine & Land Systems,” Prender said, speaking of the single Engineering Development Model of the CUSV. “That was successful. We just transitioned to a U.S. Navy test facility on the East Coast that is going to take the program to the next step, where we’re doing full system-level integration and working through the capabilities and requirements verification program.”
“All accounts to date, the vessel is performing very well,” Prender said. “It is handling well. The payload has been integrated. Our surveillance system, which includes our radar and EO/IR [electro-optical/infrared] systems, has been integrated so the system is full and complete.”
The UISS sensor package on the first CUSV is a “specialized cable and acoustic system that provides energy and acoustic into the water that is used for electromagnetic and acoustic mines,” he said. “The mine hunting units, which these two additional craft are, are going to be used for towed sonar arrays.”
Prender said that Textron has “seen interest from the U.S. Navy in providing capabilities beyond from just the LCS that would be coming off of various crafts of opportunity,” referring to a demonstration off San Diego from the mobile landing platform USNS John Glenn. “That provided a demonstration of capability of the CUSV to be utilized in whatever mission set, whether it be MCM or ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and maritime domain awareness.”
Other possible roles for the CUSV include anti-submarine warfare and communications relay.
Prender said the CUSV has “sliding autonomy,” whereby the system could be commanded and controlled using a remote hand controller all the way through a fully automated mission scenario where the system can be preloaded or dynamically re-tasked and that system can then execute that mission set autonomously.
The CUSV has a line-of-sight data link that provides the capability for the vehicle to send back imagery and radar data to the supporting platform. Prender said an unmanned aerial vehicle could be used to give the CUSV a beyond line-of-sight capability in a teaming fashion.
Prender said Textron will complete the integration and test phase through early summer, and then progress into builder’s trials by the end of the year. The Navy will take it through formal Developmental testing.
“We are taking lessons learned from the EDM program as well as from an internally funded aspect,” he said. “We are taking lessons learned from those two programs and are applying them to the pilot line units to provide an even more capable and reliable system. … Once we get the systems out into the fleet and they start to utilize them, we will see new, unique and innovative concepts of operations developed. That will really allow the CUSV to begin to show its true value as a modular and flexible ship.”