Navy establishes new unmanned surface vessel squadron with focus on small USV tactics

By Nick Wilson / May 21, 2024 at 11:56 AM

The Navy stood up a new unmanned surface vessel squadron last week that will oversee a fleet of small uncrewed vessels called Global Autonomous Reconnaissance Craft (GARC), according to a May 17 service announcement.

Located at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, CA, and staffed by approximately 400 personnel, USVRON Three will help advance the integration of uncrewed surface platforms into operations through experimentation and the development of operational concepts.

“The mission of USVRON Three is to deliver the most formidable, unmanned platforms in the maritime domain,” the announcement states. “The squadron will be a cornerstone in building the foundational knowledge required to operate and maintain sUSV and will spearhead the development of [tactics, techniques and procedures] for sUSV operations and sustainment.”

GARCs are 16-foot USVs produced by naval technology company Maritime Applied Physics Corp. The vessels are intended to enable research, testing and operations.

“USVs, including the GARCs, will provide additional warfighting capability and capacity to augment the Navy’s traditional combatant force, providing commanders with a greater range of capabilities and employment options to increase the fleet’s tactical and strategic advantages,” the announcement adds.

The new unit is U.S. Pacific Fleet’s second USV squadron, following the establishment of USVRON One in 2022. The older unit has been experimenting with medium and large USVs including Sea Hunter, Sea Hawk and Overload vessels to inform the Navy’s decision-making process ahead of platform acquisitions.

Earlier this year, incoming head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Adm. Samuel Paparo said the new USVRON Three will continue these efforts to validate unmanned tech and operational concepts.

“Here in May in U.S. Pacific Fleet, we will be standing up our second USV squadron,” Paparo said in February. “This is not a contractor-owned, contractor-operated capability. This is a uniformed capability that will be able to own [and] operate unmanned capabilities that can be employed within particular spaces."

Paparo previously said INDOPACOM aims to use autonomous, unmanned systems to generate a “constant stare” to deter China from attacking Taiwan, while Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti has indicated the Navy is on track to begin operationalizing a hybrid manned-unmanned fleet as early as fiscal year 2029.