ACTUV Sea Trials Set for Early 2016

Illustration courtesy of DARPA

Artist’s Concept courtesy of DARPA

By Richard A. Burgess,
Managing Editor, Seapower Magazine

The unmanned surface vessel designed to track and trail submarines is expected to begin builder’s trials in January or February.

The Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUCV), under development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), also is being eyed for other tasks, Scott Littlefield, program manager of its DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said Oct. 27 during the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference.

“The Navy is considering using this [the ACTUV] for a variety of missions,” Littlefield said, including mine countermeasures.

He said using the ACTUV would cost about $15,000 to $20,000 per day, compared with a destroyer that costs about $700,000 per day to operate. He said that other advantages of the ACTUV concept include greater payload and endurance than a ship-launched unmanned surface vehicle, the ability to launch from and recover at a pier, and the elimination of the need to integrate the system with a ship.

Artist's Concept courtesy of DARPA

Artist’s Concept courtesy of DARPA

The 132-foot-long, 140-ton ACTUV is being built by Leidos at the Vigor Shipyard [formerly Oregon Iron Works] in Clackamas, Ore. The vessel is about 90 percent complete. The hardware of the systems is complete, with software being engineered presently.

Testing of the command-and-control and navigation systems has been conducted using a 40-foot workboat. A challenge of an unmanned vessel operating safely is compliance with International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.

“Generally, we’re there,” Littlefield said, saying that the system “generally meets expectations.”

The main challenge, he said, is producing a vessel that “is about as reliable as a vessel operated by experienced mariners.”

DARPA plans to conduct testing of the ACTUV and its systems for two years from Point Loma in San Diego, Littlefield said.

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