Navy Developing Land-Based Unmanned Vehicle Testing Sites as Early Design Work Continues

The Navy is making arrangements for land-based testing of its Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel prototype and eyeing similar plans for its Large USV, as the sea service tries to get Congress on board with its plans to rapidly field unmanned vehicles in all domains to create a hybrid manned-unmanned force.

Rear Adm. Casey Moton, the program executive officer for unmanned and small combatants, said today at an event hosted by AUVSI that the Navy and Pentagon already have four medium and large USV prototypes in the water today and will have three more delivered in the next few years.

“The testing we’re doing at sea on those systems is very important for [hull, mechanical and electrical systems], and we’re going to continue that. Where we have definitely expanded our plans is on the land-based side,” he said.

The Navy’s pitch was to begin buying prototype vessels in numbers so the service could learn a lot about both HM&E component reliability and USV concepts of operations before beginning a program of record to buy new vessels in bulk. Lawmakers had concerns that the Navy wouldn’t be able to collect enough data before beginning the programs of record and have insisted the Navy invest in land-based testing to wring out components that will have to be able to operate for weeks or months at sea without sailors around to perform routine maintenance or to take corrective action if something fails.

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