Northrop Grumman C2 System Guides 8 Unmanned Vehicles in Seabed Warfare Experiment
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — A command and control system developed by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems has demonstrated its ability to control eight unmanned vehicles in a complex exercise to locate and engage an undersea target.
The demonstration was part of the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) 2017 being conducted Aug. 11-18 at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City, Fla., and Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I.
Jeff Hoyle, director of undersea warfare for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, said in an Aug. 16 interview that the advanced mission management and control system designed by Northrop Grumman, aligned with the vision of the Navy Common Control System, controlled a Huntington Ingalls/Battelle Proteus large autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), two Liquid Robotics Wave Glider unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), one surrogate unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), one Hydroid REMUS 100 UUVs, one Iver UUV and two Riptide Autonomous Solutions UUVs — one micro-size and a single one-man portable — “collaborating to do a seabed warfare mission” scenario. The vehicles were operated in St. Andrews Bay by Panama City, Fla.
As Hoyle described it, the surrogate UAV provided overwatch and acted as a communications relay to and from a tactical control center for the unmanned vehicles. The Wave Glider USVs were positioned 10 miles offshore to provide maritime domain awareness of the shipping traffic in and out of the bay. The Wave Gliders communicated acoustically with the Proteus UUV, which acted as a mother ship for a REMUS 100 UUV and two Riptide UUVs, which the Proteus brought into the area covertly. The REMUS 100 was equipped with a “side-scan synthetic aperture sonar that sought out and detected” the target structure, he said.
The sonar “had some automatic target detection capability, so it notified us when it detected a target and then provided a sonar snippet so that our operators in the tactical operations center could validate the correct target,” Hoyle said.
“Once [the target was] located, we launched a Riptide with a passive portable acoustic sensor from the Proteus,” he said. “It reported back any activity it detected. Following that, we determined we could detect and engage. We engaged the [target] with two simulated weapons, one a Riptide vehicle launched from the Proteus. The other was an Iver UUV that launched from a cage that we had previously placed on the bottom of the bay. We tasked it via acoustic communications.
“Both engagements were successful and we sent the Remus back down to do some battle damage assessment and validate that we had successfully engaged the target,” Hoyle said.
He said the exercise was a step up from the four-vehicle demonstration at last year’s ANTX.
“In the future, the Navy is going to need to be able to fight in multi-domains simultaneously, so the types of things we’re doing with naval technology with multi-domain autonomous command and control becomes increasingly important in the emerging area of seabed warfare,” Hoyle said.