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US Navy to Establish Unmanned Vessel Division

The US Navy’s “first-of-its-kind” operational command to test and develop a new generation of unmanned surface vessels (USV) is set to begin deployment next year, Breaking Defense reported.

The new command will be part of Navy’s Surface Vessel Division One (SURFDEVRON 1) established in 2019 to rapidly develop new warfighting concepts and capabilities through the integration of USVs and the support fleet.

The Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One will be “purpose-built to train and operate USVs at scale,” Capt. Henry Adams, Commander Surface Development Squadron ONE (SURFDEVRON 1), told the news outlet.

“Getting the agreement from ‘big Navy’ to allow the surface force to establish the subordinate command whose day job is to train and operate USVs is a big deal,” Adams added.

“And it is going to be that initial operational unit from which we’ll be able to scale USV training, maintenance, and operations.”

Upcoming Exercise With Manned, Unmanned Vessels

Meanwhile, SURFDEVRON 1 is deploying a Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer in an operational exercise in April, where the vessel will command and control a range of USVs and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

The Fleet Battle Problem exercise will help assess the Navy’s evolving maritime spy concept of deploying unmanned vessels to supplement manned vessels to collect information on enemy ships, wrote Popular Mechanics.

Exercise to Test Potential Future Force

The concerted exercise off the California coast is expected to reveal which elements of a potential future force “will have the greatest impact on increasing the fleet’s lethality,” a Navy official told by USNI News.

“…It is imperative that we understand what our future force will need to operate both in day-to-day competition as well as high-end combat,” Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Tim Pietrack added in the statement, citing the demands of the Unmanned Campaign Framework.

In addition to the destroyer USS Michael Monsoor, the US Pacific Fleet exercise will see Medium USVs such as the Sea Hunter and Sea Hawk, and UAVs including the MQ-8B Fire Scout and the MQ-9 Sea Guardian, performing a range of integrated tasks.

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