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Navy releases video of its first unmanned surface vessel in action

The Navy's first Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV). (U.S. Navy/Released)
February 20, 2020

The U.S. Navy released a video Tuesday demonstrating its first unmanned surface vessel in action, pushing the Navy towards a future full of unmanned vehicles that can protect the United States remotely.

The U.S. military has unmanned vessels underwater and in the sky, but has now added an unmanned surface vessel to its fleet, as shown in the new video demonstrating some of its capabilities.

In the video, which was shot during Exercise Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain 2020, the Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV) performs in a force protection scenario at Naval Station Norfolk, February 12.

The Navy began working with Textron Systems in 2011 to develop the first CUSV. In December 2017, Textron began developing an armed CUSV.

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“We’ve been starting to work on ’Well, what else can you use this system for?’” said Textron’s senior vice president of control and surface systems, Wayne Prender. “It clearly has more capability, we designed it with flexible, common systems in place. And that’s where we’ll begin exploring with the U.S. Navy through this CRADA that we’ve signed.”

The CUSV is currently being used by the Navy in mine/counter-mine missions, according to John Allison, who’s apart of the NAVSEA Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division.

“What it would be used for is an anti-terrorism force protection mission to help protect ports and harbors and high-value assets,” Allison explained.

He explained the CUSV they were using was equipped with a payload that is able to query threats with a hailer and non-lethal weapon package, adding that it’s backed up by lethal weapons in case subjects don’t turn away when commanded to do so.

“I think there’s a tremendous potential use for the unmanned surface vessel, just like aerial and subsurface [vessels],” explained Captain Monty Ashliman, the Public Safety Director for the Navy’s Mid-Atlantic region.

“What those tools can do for our Navy security force that protects and provides a safety blanket over all of our installations. I think it’s a tremendous tool that can potentially operate in environments where man assets would be at risk. And it’s all designed to have the most effective force and tool for out Navy security forces to protect our installations,” he added.

The 39-foot long vessel can operate autonomously, while at the same time can be controlled by a team or an individual.

“You can control it easily by yourself,” U.S. Fleet Forces Program Analyst Mike Pellerito, while the video displayed a sailor controlling the vessel with a Playstation 4 controller. “It’s also able to push the threat out beyond where the harbor patrol boats normally operate, so it gives us a force multiply effect.”

“The United States Navy as a whole obviously has a large contributing piece to the defense of our nation,” Captain Ashliman explained. “We have a large waterfront that needs protection just like the fence lines that you see on land that are around us and the entry control points or the gates that we come through, we’ve got to protect the waterfront side of it.”