Construction begins on DARPA's autonomous unmanned anti-submarine vessel
By David Szondy
July 16, 2014
As part of DARPA's Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program, Reston Virginia-based company Leidos is building the first robotic autonomous vessel designed to locate and track the extremely quiet diesel submarines that are finding their way into the navy fleets around the world.
Almost the only thing that justifies the expense and skill needed to operate a naval submarine is its ability to disappear underwater and operate invisibly. That’s why countering this advantage by locating and tracking enemy submarines even in peacetime is a major job for naval forces around the world. It’s a task so vital, yet so time consuming and expensive, that it once employed almost the entire Royal Navy during the Cold War, so it’s no wonder that automating sub hunting is a high priority.
As part of the DARPA program, the national security, health and engineering company Leidos is currently building an ACTUV capable of autonomously tracking diesel submarines at extreme depths for months on end. The firm received the okay to go ahead with the work on the craft from DARPA in February.
The unmanned trimaran is built out of carbon composites using a modular design and a parallel workflow method to speed up assembly. It is equipped with navigation and piloting sensors, electro-optics, and long and short range radar.
According to Leidos, the ACTUV’s modular design allows it to not only carry out anti-submarine warfare operations, but to be refitted for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. In addition, the vessel is able to report back on the situation and its condition and has computers programmed to identify other vessels and predict what they will do next.
The ACTUV is being built at Christensen Shipyard in Vancouver, Washington under the supervision of Leidos and Oregon Iron Works. Construction is scheduled to take 15 months with the launch on the Columbia River set for 2015.
"ACTUV's advanced sensor technology should allow for continuous surveillance which, combined with the vessel architecture and design, is expected to provide autonomous safe navigation supporting Navy missions around the world," says Leidos Group President, John Fratamico.