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Mission Reconfigurable Umanned Undersea Vehicle (MRUUVS)

Launched and recovered from submarine torpedo tubes, the Navy's 21" MRUUVS was designed to independently perform a range of information-gathering activities. It was intended to supplant two related programs now limited to prototype development, the long-term mine reconnaissance system and the advanced development unmanned undersea vehicle. Each MRUUVS included the vehicle, combat and control interfaces, and equipment for either mine countermeasure or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions (ISR).

In March 2007 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported one of the MRUUVS program's six critical technologies was mature and the remaining five were approaching maturity. While the program expected to have four of the remaining five critical technologies mature by development start, scheduled for August 2009, the sonar was not expected to reach maturity until 2010. Although many technologies had undergone at-sea testing, the program planned to rely on development efforts in other programs to demonstrate full maturity of some of MRUUVS's critical technologies. As a result of program restructuring and budget reductions, the milestone review to authorize development start had slipped by over 2 years between a 2006 GAO audit and the March 2007 report.

The program expected to have all but one critical technology fully mature by system development start planned for August 2009. In some cases the program planned to rely on development efforts in other programs to demonstrate maturity for MRUUVS technologies.

The maturity of software that would provided MRUUVS's autonomous capability had been demonstrated by the time of the March 2007 GAO report. Commercial unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) had demonstrated autonomy, and at-sea testing on a prototype vehicle in January 2006 demonstrated autonomous control and decision-making capabilities. Nevertheless, software development would continue, with incremental improvements added as they were developed.

Technology to manage the vehicle launch and recovery process involved acoustic signaling and mechanical activities. A predecessor vehicle on which MRUUVS was based demonstrated homing, docking, and replacement into a model submarine hull. MRUUVS's launch capability was demonstrated in January 2006 during at-sea tests with a submarine. Due to a mechanical failure, however, the vehicle could not be recovered back into the submarine. A test was planned for 2007 to demonstrate end-to-end vehicle recovery with a submarine.

The Littoral Precision Undersea Mapping Array (LPUMA) enabled object identification and obstacle avoidance. An advanced development model was developed, tested, and deployed on a 21" vehicle, thereby demonstrating its mine identification capability. The Navy had planned to test a more advanced, lighter-weight prototype, but eliminated this development based on budget cuts. Instead, the program believed it could achieve full maturity through modeling and simulation and demonstrations of the array, without a test vehicle.

ISR technology already exists and was operational on Navy unmanned aerial vehicles. However, packaging the required technology within the size, space, and weight constraints of MRUUVS would require miniaturized, highly compact, and light weight components that could be adapted for an ocean environment. In 2006 the ISR suite was packaged into a 21" prototype for at-sea testing. While this demonstrated partial maturity, the program did not expect additional testing and development to occur until after a development contract was awarded. The program believed that maturity would be demonstrated by October 2008 through sensor development on other programs.

While conventional batteries that could support MRUUVS endurance requirements had successfully been demonstrated on other UUVs, the program office intended to leverage development of rechargeable batteries from the Advanced SEAL Delivery System program for use on MRUUVS. While these batteries attained functional capability, further development was necessary to ensure fit into a small unmanned undersea vehicle.

In January 2006 the synthetic aperture sonar was tested at-sea using a larger UUV. The Navy eliminated further development of a final prototype due to cost growth and design failures. Full maturity of the sonar was not expected until fiscal year 2010, after a contract for MRUUVS development was awarded.

Between 2006 and 2007 the program underwent significant restructuring. In February 2006 the Navy implemented a new program strategy, which delayed development start from July 2006 to late 2008. According to program officials, program restructuring was necessary not only because of Navy-wide fiscal issues, but also because of technology immaturity and problems with system integration.

Additional changes resulted from FY07 appropriations, which reduced the program by $16.9 million. As a consequence of this reduction, the acquisition and contracting strategies were again being revised. Program officials expected additional delays in the MRUUVS program, with development start slipping to 2009.




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