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Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUV)

The Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUV) program was created with the goal of extending knowledge and control of the undersea battlespace through the employment of clandestine off-board sensors.

UUVs were intended to allow an SSN to safely gain access to denied areas with revolutionary sensors and weapons. These areas may be denied based on unacceptable risks to an SSN such as extremely shallow water, very poor acoustic conditions, or mined waters. UUVs would provide unique capabilities and extend the "reach" of our platforms while reducing the risk to an SSN and its crew.

UUVs were envisioned to contribute to the following SSN mission areas: Mine Warfare (MIW); Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); and undersea environmental sensing and mapping.

The first UUVs that were to be fielded on SSNs were intended to support Mine Warfare. The Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System (LMRS) was expected to greatly improve submarines' mine hunting capabilities in the near future. Ultimately, a mission reconfigurable UUV would also come into service providing more capabilities and reducing risk to future SSNs. UUVs were seen as key elements in maintaining submarines' future undersea dominance against any threat.

The Navy's inventory of UUVs could largely be loaded on 688/688I class submarines using standard weapons handling procedures. They could be airlifted or shipped to any forward site capable of conducting weapons handling evolutions.

UUVs were used in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Navyal Special Clearance Team (NSCT) One, along with Royal Navy and Australian forces, on 24 March 2003, handled the task of exploratory mine hunting to render the port safe for incoming humanitarian aid shipments. NSCT One accomplished its mission with the aid of Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUV). They also conducted additional UUV operations further up the river at Az Zubayr and Karbala, Iraq. NSCT One went into action by initially checking the bottom for mines. Then the divers conducted tactile searches of the quay wall out into the surrounding water to determine any possible mine burial zones.

One of the main challenges in their exploratory mine hunting operation was dealing with tidal extremes of up to 15 feet between high and low tides and the pull of currents up to five knots. There were also sandstorms that made visibility murky on land, as well as deposited silt and sediment along the wharfs, piers and moorings of the old port city.

In all, NSCT One conducted ten missions in the waters off Umm Qasr, covering a total of 2.5 million square meters. It discovered and marked 97 man-made objects and shapes, each of which had to be checked out, even if they turned out to be rusty anchors or old truck tires.

In all three locations, a useful by product of their underwater work was the data they collected was shared with the Port and Maritime Registry, which would help in much needed pending dredging operations.

NSCT One's mission proved that by using UUVs in actual field work in difficult wartime conditions, they were able to achieve its military objective, and also provide valuable environmental and oceanographic data that will be extremely important in the days to come.




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