Navy seeks to accelerate deployment of medium unmanned surface vessels

By Abby Shepherd / June 18, 2024 at 2:45 PM

The Navy plans to deploy several medium unmanned surface vessels in an accelerated time frame, and is conducting market research to identify existing resources to support this mission.

The Navy’s Unmanned Maritime System program office is “interested in vessels less than 200 feet in length and under 500 tons of displacement” that can meet certain payload requirements, according to a request for information posted Monday. The RFI comes amid continued Navy investments in developing unmanned technology, with the notice calling for an accelerated schedule.

“PMS 406 is contemplating an accelerated approach with industry to leverage existing, manned or unmanned surface ship designs that can be modified to enable rapid delivery of an unmanned or optionally unmanned surface ship capability,” the notice states.

This “accelerated schedule” means using existing ship designs and making minor modifications or converting existing vessels. The Navy wants the first vessel to be delivered within 12 months of a contract award, with delivery of all other vessels by 24 months.

Through this RFI, the Navy wants to know if industry can meet specific requirements within the accelerated timeline and is seeking details on “technical and manufacturing capabilities, technical quality of solutions, knowledge, experience level, and qualifications of industry to meet the government’s needs to build or convert up to seven MUSVs,” according to the notice.

This notice follows other steps aimed at expanding the Navy’s unmanned portfolio, with Navy leadership committing to increasing unmanned technology capacity.

In February, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti signaled a hybrid manned-unmanned fleet could be operational by fiscal year 2029.

“I think unmanned systems have an enormous potential to multiply our combat power by complementing our existing fleet of ships, submarines and aircraft through manned-unmanned teaming, especially in areas like maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, mine countermeasures operations seabed exploration and carrier airwing support,” Franchetti said at this year’s West 2024 conference.