USN 'Ghost Fleet' Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV)

Grey Havoc

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First directly mentioned on SPF back in 2017:
bring_it_on said:
Pentagon proposes converting existing vessels into 'Ghost Fleet' and other new FY-18 projects

The Pentagon is seeking funding for a new "Ghost Fleet" project in fiscal year 2018 to launch a prototype, unmanned maritime naval force to fulfill existing combatant commander requirements, one of nine new-start projects the secretive Strategic Capabilities Office seeks in its $1.1 billion FY-18 research and development spending request.

The new FY-18 projects seek $430 million in funding and, if enacted, would expand the portfolio of ongoing technology prototype efforts managed by the SCO to more than two dozen in an effort to outfit U.S. forces with disruptive capabilities by establishing new and unconventional uses of existing systems and near-term technologies.

The SCO, created in 2012 and established last fall as a permanent Defense Department entity, focuses on projects with the potential to bolster conventional deterrence and power projection capabilities against great powers such as China and Russia and find new ways to create surprise and demonstrate overmatch capability.

The Ghost Fleet project is the single largest FY-18 SCO new start, with a proposed $206 million budget.

"SCO will develop and demonstrate fleet integrated, operational prototype unmanned maritime vehicles to fill existing mission requirements for Combatant Commanders," the budget request states. The funding would be used to "build and evaluate unmanned capabilities to support future operational demonstrations" and to begin payload integration efforts.

The Ghost Fleet prototypes "will include platforms, autonomy, command, control and communications and payload integration," the request adds.

"Because of their high-value sensors, weapons, and most importantly people, naval ships must be heavily defended," SCO Director William Roper told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee on May 3. "Partnering with the Navy, SCO is converting existing vessels into autonomous, collaborative 'ghost fleets' . . . capable of dangerous missions without putting critical ships at risk," according to Roper's written testimony that foreshadowed the FY-18 budget request.

The second-largest FY-18 request for a new-start project is to create a secure tactical communications network for ground forces operating in anti-access, area-denial environments, an effort called "LiTE Saber." The SCO is seeking $65 million in FY-18 to "develop and demonstrate a commercial-enabled" communications network and use the funding to "establish candidate operating environments" and "conduct analysis to define system characteristics and effectiveness," according to the budget request.

The "Breaker" project is another FY-18 new-start, seeking $47.7 million for a demonstration to integrate "existing systems to provide combatant commanders with long range, surface- and air-delivered area effects," according to the budget request. The Breaker project "will demonstrate the feasibility and utility of launching this modified weapon from existing fires launchers," according to the request. The effort aims to retire risks associated with integrating the candidate munition into an unidentified existing weapon system, including modifications to increase munition lethality, according to the budget request.

FY-18 funding would be used to determine the munition integration design, conduct planning for integration into existing fire launchers, conduct ground-based tests and continue mission analysis for evaluating capability across multiple mission areas, according to the request.

Another project, the "Motley Crew," is an FY-18 new-start seeking $32 million to "leverage near-term technologies being developed to enable interoperability between weapons," according to the budget request. "Motley Crew will enable collaboration among existing weapons to enhance capabilities [in] anti-access/area-denial environments," the budget request states.

In a project similar to Ghost Fleet, the SCO is partnering with the Air Force in a new FY-18 project called "AVATAR" to incorporate expendable unmanned aircraft with fighter aircraft formations to allow pilots to control the drones from a safe, standoff distance. The Pentagon is seeking $25 million for AVATAR in FY-18. "SCO will convert manned aircraft and target drones to avatars in order to develop enhanced combat capabilities," the budget request states.

The "Hornet's Nest" project, also an FY-18 new start, requires $24 million to begin work to "develop a multi-mission Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) capable of launch from manned/unmanned rotary and fixed wing aircraft and ground systems," according to the budget request.

"MAVEN" is another FY-18 new-start, seeking $16 million to "leverage advanced commercial technologies to provide advantage to the warfighter in contested environments," according to the request.

"Vanguard" is seeking $8.5 million in FY-18 as a new-start to "provide a capability to detect and track troop and motorized unit movements across the battlefield," and "StormSystem" is also a new start seeking $7 million to "leverage existing capabilities to develop a suite of tools that disrupts the adversary cyber network exploitation," according to the budget request. "This effort will provide low-cost, at-scale obfuscation capabilities to government and industrial base research and development networks."

Most recent development:
https://news.usni.org/2019/03/13/navy-wants-ten-ship-3b-unmanned-experimental-ghost-fleet

Likely related in some way to the CARACaS program.
 

Grey Havoc

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The LUSV program is a proposed new start project for FY2020. The Navy wants to procure two LUSVs per year in FY2020- FY2024. The Navy wants LUSVs to be low-cost, high-endurance, reconfigurable ships based on commercial ship designs, with ample capacity for carrying various modular payloads—particularly anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and strike payloads, meaning principally anti-ship and land-attack missiles. The Navy reportedly envisions LUSVs as being 200 feet to 300 feet in length and having a full load displacement of about 2,000 tons.
 

jsport

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can not agree the "proven Carrier and Air Wing as opposed to the unproven LUSV" both are quite unproven in genuine anti-access/area-denial environments of the next decade and beyond. $3B on what appears to be very rudimentary LUSV program should well be challenged.

"Motley Crew will enable collaboration among existing weapons to enhance capabilities [in] anti-access/area-denial environments," only a sub surface surface vehicle would ever be survivable and there is not even discussion of such a beast but in China.
 

sferrin

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can not agree the "proven Carrier and Air Wing as opposed to the unproven LUSV" both are quite unproven in genuine anti-access/area-denial environments of the next decade and beyond. $3B on what appears to be very rudimentary LUSV program should well be challenged.

"Motley Crew will enable collaboration among existing weapons to enhance capabilities [in] anti-access/area-denial environments," only a sub surface surface vehicle would ever be survivable and there is not even discussion of such a beast but in China.

If there's anything that's "unproven" it's the actual threat of "anti-access/area-denial environments of the next decade". We hear about lots of boogiemen, the vaunted "carrier killers" of lore. No actual evidence yet though. Still nothing real to suggest China is even where the USSR was back in the late 80s.
 

jsport

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The Rand Pacfic war study etc... not going rehash. Pretty well accepted 2050 PRC dominance especially the Pacific.
 

Grey Havoc

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Congress At The Helm
On the issue of unmanned surface ships, the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee says in its draft markup that it wants to hold funding for the large unmanned surface vessel, or LUSV, program until the Navy can confirm it has designed a workable mechanical and electrical system that it can operate autonomously for 30 consecutive days. The language reflects that in the Senate Armed Services Committee markup released earlier this month.

The House committee also recommends prohibiting the Navy from arming the LUSV until the “Secretary of the Defense certifies to the congressional defense committees that any large unmanned surface vessel that employs offensive weapons will comply with the law of armed conflict.”

The subcommittee also authorized the purchase of eight new warships, including a second Virginia-class attack submarine the Trump administration removed from the Navy’s budget.

The strategic forces subcommittee directs the Navy to focus on integrating hypersonic weapons on surface ships. According to one committee aid who spoke with reporters, it also asks for a report addressing “certain questions and concerns that are ongoing, including operational control authority, whether we need to update our war plans, who would be responsible for targeting requirements, what the risks of miscalculation would be and what the risk mitigations might be, and finally on basing strategies for a land-based variant.”

Included in that is the new Zumwalt destroyer, the first two of which have been delivered to the Navy and are currently undergoing testing as the service figures out what to do with the truncated three-ship buy.
 

Grey Havoc

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Robot Ships & Submarines

Congress and the Pentagon are deeply at odds over the future of the fleet. The Navy, backed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, sees robotic vessels as crucial adjuncts to larger manned warships, with unmanned surface and underwater vehicles (USVs and UUVs) serving as relatively expendable scouts, decoys, and missile launchers. Congress, however, remains deeply committed to traditional shipyards and President Trump’s campaign promise of 355 (manned) ships. There’s fear on Capitol Hill. that the Navy may be moving too fast towards full-up prototypes before working out technical basics, like how to keep ships running with no maintenance crew aboard and how to retain human control of lethal weapons from a long way away.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have passed language limiting the robo-boat programs. SASC forbids the Navy from spending 2021 appropriations on the Medium USV, Large USV, Large Displacement UUV, or Extra-Large UUV until it can show their “‘critical mission, hull, mechanical, and electrical sub-systems’’ will work well. The HASC language specifically says the LUSV must function 30 days without human maintainers; SASC sets a 45-day (1,080-hour) threshold for both LUSV and MUSV.

We haven’t seen HASC’s funding tables yet, so we don’t know if the House committee wants to cut these programs. But the Senate funding tables cut them by over $548 million (and authorizers do have the power to limit spending):

  • Prototyping for Medium and Large USVs is cut entirely, with SASC rejecting the entire $464 million request as “excess procurement ahead of satisfactory testing.”
  • Prototyping for Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles is cut nearly in half, losing $36 million out of a $78 million request, again as “excess procurement ahead of…. testing.”
  • Prototyping specifically for the XLUUV (aka the Boeing Orca) and the LDUUV (aka Snakehead) are each cut $10 million (out of an unspecified total) for having an “uncertified test strategy.”
  • Even the relatively small and modest Barracuda mine-hunting UUV prototype is cut $28 million for an unspecified “program delay.”
On the upside, SASC would add $115 million for “advanced surface machinery” to help unmanned surface vessels operate without human maintainers: $45 million for “USV autonomy” and $70 million for “engine and generator qualification testing.” That partially offsets the cuts above – but in a way that makes it very clear the Senate wants the Navy to get the basics right before putting prototypes to sea.
 

Grey Havoc

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Robot Ships & Submarines

Congress and the Pentagon are deeply at odds over the future of the fleet. The Navy, backed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, sees robotic vessels as crucial adjuncts to larger manned warships, with unmanned surface and underwater vehicles (USVs and UUVs) serving as relatively expendable scouts, decoys, and missile launchers. Congress, however, remains deeply committed to traditional shipyards and President Trump’s campaign promise of 355 (manned) ships. There’s fear on Capitol Hill. that the Navy may be moving too fast towards full-up prototypes before working out technical basics, like how to keep ships running with no maintenance crew aboard and how to retain human control of lethal weapons from a long way away.

Both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have passed language limiting the robo-boat programs. SASC forbids the Navy from spending 2021 appropriations on the Medium USV, Large USV, Large Displacement UUV, or Extra-Large UUV until it can show their “‘critical mission, hull, mechanical, and electrical sub-systems’’ will work well. The HASC language specifically says the LUSV must function 30 days without human maintainers; SASC sets a 45-day (1,080-hour) threshold for both LUSV and MUSV.

We haven’t seen HASC’s funding tables yet, so we don’t know if the House committee wants to cut these programs. But the Senate funding tables cut them by over $548 million (and authorizers do have the power to limit spending):

  • Prototyping for Medium and Large USVs is cut entirely, with SASC rejecting the entire $464 million request as “excess procurement ahead of satisfactory testing.”
  • Prototyping for Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles is cut nearly in half, losing $36 million out of a $78 million request, again as “excess procurement ahead of…. testing.”
  • Prototyping specifically for the XLUUV (aka the Boeing Orca) and the LDUUV (aka Snakehead) are each cut $10 million (out of an unspecified total) for having an “uncertified test strategy.”
  • Even the relatively small and modest Barracuda mine-hunting UUV prototype is cut $28 million for an unspecified “program delay.”
On the upside, SASC would add $115 million for “advanced surface machinery” to help unmanned surface vessels operate without human maintainers: $45 million for “USV autonomy” and $70 million for “engine and generator qualification testing.” That partially offsets the cuts above – but in a way that makes it very clear the Senate wants the Navy to get the basics right before putting prototypes to sea.
 

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  • Huntington Ingalls
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Bollinger Shipyards Lockport
  • Marinette Marine
  • Gibbs & Cox
  • Austal USA

are each being awarded a contract for studies of a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel with a combined value across all awards of $41,985,112. Each contract includes an option for engineering support, that if exercised, would bring the cumulative value for all awards to $59,476,146. Work will be performed in various locations in the contiguous U.S. in accordance with each contract and is expected to be complete by August 2021, and if option(s) are exercised, work is expected to be complete by May 2022

 

Grey Havoc

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OSVs are the state-of-the-art standard for moving large crews and delivery of high-priority cargo to and from deep-water oil drilling platforms hundreds of miles from shore. Many are catamaran-hull designs, around 180 feet long with maximum and cruise speeds of 42 and 35 knots, respectively. These are aluminum-hull vessels with two engines driving two water jets in each hull. This variant affords higher speed and a lower draft—2.0 meters at load—than a monohull and offers redundancy should the engine(s) in one hull receive battle damage.

As configured for commercial users, OSVs have long, wide cargo decks and recliner seating for as many as 150 passengers for a cost of $20 – $23 million new. The Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office and the Navy’s Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) have studied these vessels as part of the Project Ghost Fleet Overlord program, which is developing autonomous technologies for medium and large unmanned surface vessels (USVs). As a result, the Navy has developed significant knowledge of the capabilities of these vessels.

While the Ghost Fleet Overlord concept envisions missiles loaded vertically in shipping containers,
 
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Grey Havoc

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The Navy signaled with its long-discussed Unmanned Campaign Plan last month that it wants to shift its focus from building large, expensive platforms toward meeting naval requirements with unmanned systems. However, sea power advocates in Congress were critical of the document and have been emphasizing crewed ships until the Navy successfully demonstrates the technical foundations of unmanned systems.

The Navy, in fiscal 2021 and beyond, wants to develop and procure large, medium and extra-large unmanned vehicles. However, amid skepticism in Congress over the Navy’s ability to quickly develop new technologies, lawmakers provided $238.9 million of the $579.9 million in research and development funding the Navy requested.
Defense News previously reported that the Navy is likely to delay its Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle program by a year amid resistance from Congress. The most recent annual defense policy law barred the Navy from fielding the MK 41 Vertical Launching System on LUSVs and ordered it to explore a range of vessel types as alternatives.
 

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dan_inbox

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I wonder if the old maritimes laws about the right to board and take over hulls abandoned by their crews have been changed.

I could imagine interesting scenarios with rogue states playing cute and then claiming the international law is on their side...
 

Silencer1

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Could these automomous ships signal "SOS" in case of emergency? Because no souls are on board of such unmanned ships: both in conventional and in maritime meanings.
P.S. They call them "Flying Dutchmen" :cool:
 

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I wonder if the old maritimes laws about the right to board and take over hulls abandoned by their crews have been changed.

I could imagine interesting scenarios with rogue states playing cute and then claiming the international law is on their side...
If they are INTENDED to operate without a crew, can they really be considered 'abandoned'?
 

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I'll bet China can't wait until they're operational so they can get them a new fleet.
 

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We will see what the concept of operations is but I would expect these things will work in supplemental roles to manned ships as part of a task group.

I doubt they will initially be sent out completely on their own and un-protected.
 

Silencer1

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I doubt they will initially be sent out completely on their own and un-protected.

I'm also think, how such vessels coulde be protected internally from the hijacking or damaging? In theory, it's possible to catch flying RPV (in order to reveal it's technology), but automated ships are much easier targets for boarding parties. Self-destruction or remotely controlled guns, or non-lethal weapons?
 

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I assume unmanned ships will be more susceptible to such attacks which is why I'd deploy them under the eyes of manned ships initially.

If they act as sensor pickets or vls barges they would be part of a larger, distributed battle group.

If they are bobbing about, completely on their own I would agree they would be at risk.

Distributed operations of linked vessels seems to be the trend in Naval thinking.

That's why these tests and exercises the Navy is doing with these is important.

Kind of like the earliest days of Naval aviation, nobody's quite sure how to best make use of the technology.
 

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IMHO, the current situation of unmanned ships (we could assume, that in future some civil ships appears, aren't we?) is similar to the "narco- subs", abandoned by crew - from the legal point.
 

Grey Havoc

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On another note.

An earlier story from back in June:
 

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“The Navy’s planned LUSV would also be an approximately 2,000-ton ship based on an [offshore support vessel] design,” the study read. “In contrast to the optionally manned LUSV, the DDC [corvette] would be an optionally unmanned vessel that would normally operate with a crew. By having small crews, DDCs could contribute to peacetime training, engagement, maritime security, and deterrence.”
I'm just reading this and I'm getting the inversed implication.

The reason why the fleet is so expensive is because endless peacetime "training, engagement, maritime security, deterrence and sailing around" that burn equipment life and thus demand a huge maintenance crew and bin of parts that result and exploding lifecycle costs over decades long active service life. A ship without capability for "peacetime flag showing and dick waving" can have far, far lower costs as it sits in environmentally controlled box for most of its life.

The question about USV has always been: how does unmanned make it better.

The answer can be: because it cuts out the money burning capabilities that is also irrelevant to warfighting like:
1. Sailing around in peace time because steel hulls can scare teh enemy that have never seen such a thingy~
2. Damage control to get crappy recycle salvage years after the war is over

It is in fact somewhat shocking to me how the USN can be so busy and burn out so much equipment and crew with super busy deployments in low tension peace times.
 

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