Drone Warfare at Sea.

Drones at Sea.

Sea Hunter and her sister ship Sea Hawk the world largest autonomous naval vessels have left port on an US Navy exercise Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem 21, or UxS IBP 21.

These two Class III unmanned surface vessels (USV) have the potential to traverse thousands of miles of open ocean for months without a single crew member aboard.

Known as Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessels they are submarine hunters. Measuring 132ft in length and capable of 27 knots, Sea Hunter is the world’s largest unscrewed ship and designed as a trimaran.

Sea Hunter can handle communications relays, and carries intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance sensor packages.

MDUSVs, network together and with manned ships, and operating autonomously, can cover a broad area looking for all potential threats from enemy surface ships, submarines, mines, or shore-based defences.

They can use electronic warfare systems to blind enemy radars and other sensors, employ electronic support measures to geolocate and classify targets, and assisting building an enemy’s “electronic order of battle.”

A group of Sea Hunters can provide a defensive screen for high-value vessels, such as aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, in a developing US Navy concept called “Electromagnetic Manoeuvre Warfare.”
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The UxS IBP 21 l exercise referred to in the first post above also sees the participation of the Michael Mansoor, DDG-1001 is the second ship in the Zumwalt-class of destroyers which honours Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor, a Navy SEAL posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 29, 2006.

It appears that the USN seems ready to use the particular abilities of Michael Monsoor, Zumwalt and the Lyndon B Johnson, when commissioned to operate as command and control platforms for the unmanned assets the US Navy is developing.

The DDG-1000's series stealthy design makes them more survivable than their less stealthy counterparts, such as the Navy's Arleigh Burke class destroyers, an asset along with other features that suits them for a role as command and control nodes for unmanned systems operating in and around contested territory.

The new technologies will allow them to serve as a multi-mission platforms capable of operating as an integral part of naval, joint or combined maritime forces. They field a considerably larger flight deck with a capacity for two MH-60R and three VTOL UAVs to execute a wider array of surface, aviation, and undersea missions that deliver more manpower, firepower, and computing power to the fight.

The Vertical Launch System (VLS) features cells physically larger than similar cells on today’s ships, allowing this class to fire larger and more advanced land and anti-ship missiles in the future.

The Navy has been trying to better define the roles and missions of the DDG-1000s. At present, the Zumwalt and the Michael Monsoor are both working in the development unit, Surface Development Squadron One, or SURFDEVRON. The Lyndon B. Johnson to join them when commissioned.

The Zumwalt DDG-1000 is approximately one-third larger in displacement than the Flight IIA Arleigh Burke destroyers. Its low observable design includes huge multiple spectrum signature reduction including electromagnetic emissions, radar, acoustic and infrared.

The ship’s power plant and electric distribution system is state of the art. The Integrated Power System uses the ship’s gas turbines and generators to produce around 78 megawatts and the screws are turned by electric motors. While cruising at 20 knots the ship retains a reserve of 58 megawatts which will be used by new high electricity consuming technologies still to be fitted, possibly lasers or railgun.

It has high-end sonar gear, including hull-mounted high-frequency and mid-frequency sonar systems optimised to detect submarines and mines in the more difficult near-shore environment. With automation it has around 150 crew, less than half the ships complement of the smaller Arleigh Burke class. It's open-architecture “electronic keel” is designed into the ship.

Dubbed the Total Shipboard Computing Environment, this network and computing system fuses the ship’s sensor information, weapons capabilities, communications, navigation, engineering and even the ship’s predicted radar, acoustic and emissions signature at any given time into an integrated command and control interface. This information piped around the ship on common computing stations allowing access to the ship’s various functions to be operated from anywhere on the ship.

The Zumwalt have had a great deal of controversy in the role they were to play in the US Navy it now seems that they may have found a niche as controllers for a number of low cost autonomous 'loyal wingmen’ of various types acting together.
The recent live fire exercise UxS IBP 21 l or Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem 21 referred to in the above posts has just finished. The exercise, was carried out by U.S. 3rd Fleet and was designed to integrate manned and unmanned capabilities into operational scenarios to generate war-fighting advantages.

It involved surface, subsurface, and aerial unmanned assets, operating with littoral combat ships, guided-missile destroyers, guided-missile cruisers, submarines and helicopter squadrons.

A total of 29 different unmanned systems took part in the event, with approximately 50 percent of them being unmanned surface vessels (USV), around 30 percent being unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), and the remaining 20 percent or so being aerial platforms.

The live firing from the destroyer USS John Finn (DDG-113) launched an Extended Range Active Missile (SM-6), striking a target well beyond the line of sight. Integrated manned and unmanned systems had together established a track for the launch.

Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Doyle, UxS IBP 21 lead live-fire planner reported that the missile shoot was challenging but rewarding. The entire team’s planning efforts culminate in a successful shoot.

The exercise gave the US Navy a great opportunity for planners, program designers and importantly sailors to work together in integrating multiple unmanned capabilities that are tactically relevant in many areas of the world to successfully locate, track, and pass the information needed to, a surface vessel in this case, and allow it to engage and destroy a target it would otherwise have been entirely unaware of


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