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US Navy Kicks Off Exercise Involving Manned, Unmanned Vessels

The US Navy kicked off its maiden exercise Monday involving manned and unmanned systems operating together off the California coast.

The seven-day Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem 21 will provide a glimpse of the future fleet consisting of a mix of crewed and uncrewed vessels, USNI News reported.

The exercise will focus on how the unmanned systems work in synchronization with manned counterparts.

It will test the “communications networks, the battle management aids, the common control systems, the data format and more,” according to the news outlet.

Integrated Unmanned Capabilities

“Building off advances achieved over the past decade in unmanned aviation, Pacific Fleet is answering the Chief of Naval Operations’ (CNO) drive to put the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Plan into action,” Rear Adm. Robert Gaucher, director of maritime headquarters at US Pacific Fleet, said.

“The overall goal is to integrate our unmanned capabilities across all domains to demonstrate how they solve CNO and Fleet Commander Key Operational Problems,” Gaucher added.

“To get after these problems, Unmanned Integrated Battle Problem 21 will include maneuvering in contested space across all domains; targeting and fires; and intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance.”

Destroyer to Control Unmanned Platforms

The US Pacific Fleet will lead the exercise while the US Third Fleet will execute it, USNI News reported, adding that the navy’s Zumwalt-class destroyer USS Michael Monsoor will operate as the “mother ship,” controlling some of the airborne and seaborne unmanned platforms.

Meanwhile, Popular Mechanics wrote that the exercise will help assess the navy’s evolving maritime spy concept of deploying unmanned vessels to supplement manned vessels in collecting information on enemy ships.

Exercise to Test Potential Future Force

The exercise 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 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 standards 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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