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US Marines Corps Green Lights Autonomous Vessel Carrying Armed Swarm Drones

While capable of operating completely autonomously, there is an option to operate the vessel manually as well.

The US Marines Corps has selected a Louisiana-based ship manufacturer to build a long-range unmanned warship equipped with its own swarm of armed drones.

Along with the unmanned vehicles, the Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel (LRUSV) System will carry multiple weapon systems that can be launched and retrieved autonomously by the platform, said manufacturer Metal Shark in a statement.

While capable of operating completely autonomously, there is an option to operate the vessel manually as well.

The autonomous system, meanwhile, will be built by Spatial Integrated Systems, “a leader in the development of multi-vessel collaborative swarming autonomous capabilities, sensor fusion, and perception.”

Once the structure of the system is ready, Metal Shark will integrate the autonomous system and an advanced Command and Control (C2) software suite.

“The LRUSV program represents a significant milestone for autonomous technology, for the defense world, and for the entire shipbuilding industry,” said Metal Shark CEO Chris Allard.

“We are thrilled to be integrating advanced autonomy and Command and Control capability into these highly specialized surface vessels to provide the Marine Corps with a next-generation system.”

Navy’s Emphasis on Unmanned Vessels in New Plan  

LRUSVs are part of the US Navy’s plan to develop and procure three types of large unmanned vehicles in fiscal year 2021 and beyond, said the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan shared staff to congressional committees and members of Congress.

Apart from LRUSV, the other two types of boats are Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs), and Extra-Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs), the document added.

“The Navy is requesting $579.9 million in FY2021 research and development funding for these large UVs and their enabling technologies.”

Unmanned Vessels to Carry Anti-Ship, Land-Attack Missiles

The US Navy envisions LUSVs as being 200 to 300 feet in length and weighing between 1,000 to 2,000 tons.

The navy wants LUSVs to carry various modular payloads—particularly anti-ship and land-attack missiles.

The plan envisages the addition of large unmanned vehicles and proportionately more small manned surface combatants such as frigates and Littoral Combat Ships, and fewer large manned surface combatants such as cruisers and destroyers in the Navy’s overall fleet.

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