The U.S. Navy released a request for proposals (RFP) to industry for the development of the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MUSV), July 16.
The MUSV will be a pier-launched, self-deploying modular, open architecture surface vehicle capable of autonomous navigation and mission execution. The development RFP contains options for additional USVs. A full and open competitive procurement will take place in fiscal year (FY) 2019.
“Accelerating Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) and payload development and warfighting integration will provide an inflection point in delivering a more distributed force in support of the National Defense Strategy”, said a Navy statement.
“The Navy released a draft MUSV performance specification Feb. 5 and conducted an MUSV Industry Day Feb. 12-13. Through months of dialogue with industry, the Navy has incorporated feedback that informed the RFP released today”, the statement added.
The Navy plans to award a contract for a single MUSV prototype in the first quarter of FY20.
U.S. Navy’s Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MUSV) Program
The Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs) are one of the three new types of unmanned vehicles (UVs) that is being sought by the U.S. Navy, with the others being Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs), and Extra-Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs).
The MUSVs is being developed as a low-cost, high-endurance, reconfigurable ships that can accommodate various payloads. Initial payloads for MUSVs are to be intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payloads and electronic warfare (EW) systems.
The vessels “will be designed to be attritable assets [i.e., assets that can be lost in battle] if used in a peer or near-peer conflict.” The Navy wants MUSVs to be capable initially of operating with human operators in the loop, or semi-autonomously, with human operators on the loop.
MUSVs are defined as having a length of between 12 meters (about 39 feet) and 50 meters (about 164 feet). Some U.S. Navy surface ships are equipped to embark, launch, and recover boats or USVs with lengths of up to 11 meters (about 36 feet). The minimum length of 12 meters is thus an indication that MUSVs will be too large to be deployed from these manned Navy surface ships.
The Navy wants to pursue the MUSV program as a rapid prototyping effort under what is known as Section 804 acquisition authority. To help implement this rapid prototyping effort, the MUSV program will build on development work by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under its Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) effort and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) under its Medium Displacement USV (MDUSV) effort.
This work led to the design, construction, and testing of the prototype Sea Hunter medium displacement USV, which has a reported length of 132 feet (about 40.2 meters) and a displacement of about 140 tons.