Textron Systems division AAI Corp. in Hunt Valley, Md., has been awarded a $33.8 million contract by the U.S. Navy to provide common unmanned surface vessel (CUSV) support to the unmanned influence sweep system (UISS) program.
The Navy will use the CUSV to sweep magnetic and acoustic mines.
Bill Leonard, program director for unmanned surface systems at Textron Systems, says the CUSV will be used on both Freedom and Independence class Littoral Combat Ships (LCS).
“The 11 meter long vessel looks like a typical boat, but has no helm area,” Leonard says. “It’s launched off of the LCS, is self-propelled and autonomously controlled, although a person in the LCS monitors the CUSV all the time.”
Once the CUSV completes its mission, it returns autonomously to the LCS. Leonard notes.
The current CUSV is Textron’s fourth generation and has undergone more than 1,900 hours of in-water operation. Leonard points out that the latest version of the CUSV features design improvements that support missions in high seas, as well as carrying a large configurable payload bay. The CUSV is powered by dual diesel engines.
The CUSV is designed to sweep all three types of mines currently in use — acoustic, magnetic and acoustic/magnetic, Leonard says.
“The vessel puts an acoustic noise into the water to fool the mine into thinking a target is there and causing the mine to detonate,” he says. “In the case of a magnetic mine, which looks for the magnetic signature of a large ship, the CUSV puts out a magnetic signature to get the mine to detonate. The acoustic and electrical energy the CUSV puts into the water fools all those types of mines.”
Leonard adds that the CUSV is designed to be survivable.
“It can handle the shock of a mine detonating, even though those detonations can be very powerful explosions,” he says. “The hull design is an all aluminum structure which is more forgiving than a composite-type structure. We also shock mount many of the vessel’s components so they can tolerate the kinds of forces generated by a very high burst of shock.”
The signals are put in the water by the CUSV through a towed acoustic generator, Leonard says.
“The CUSV launches its cable and noise generator, and drags them through the water,” he says. “If there’s a mine detonation event, when the vehicle comes back to the LCS, it is inspected before being sent on another mission.”
The CUSV, which Textron Systems expects to deliver to the Navy in 2016, is designed to be a multi-mission craft, according to Leonard.
“We can take a payload package off of the CUSV and put a mine hunting system on it in place of the sweeping system,” he says. “It can be a great tool in clearing mines and one of the big advantages of unmanned systems is that you’re taking the person out of the minefield.”
About the author: Alan M. Petrillo is a Tucson, Ariz., journalist who writes for national and regional magazines and newspapers. He’s also the author of the mystery, Full Moon, books on historical military small arms, and the nonfiction work, Ice Hockey in the Desert.