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Navy to Investigate Unmanned Military Capabilities of Hybrid Craft

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070817-02
Release Date: 8/17/2007 12:07:00 PM

By John J. Joyce, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division Public Affairs

DAHLGREN, Va. (NNS) -- The unmanned military capabilities of a hybrid hovercraft and ground-effect vehicle, UH-19XRW, were demonstrated July 25.

The hybrid hovercraft is being worked on by a team of Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren Division engineers and scientists in the ground effect research and development program known as Sly Fox Program Mission 9.

“The goal of Sly Fox Program Mission 9 is to integrate, test and evaluate the hybrid UH-19XRW vehicle’s utility as a military vehicle, including an unmanned capability,” said Dohn Burnett, Sly Fox Program manager. “This vehicle has great potential to provide very flexible warfighting capability across a broad spectrum of missions. This team of junior engineers and scientists will be exploring the concepts and designs for changing this vehicle from a commercial water craft to a military system."

Potential Navy and Marine Corps applications of the hybrid vehicle were presented to over 30 NSWC Dahlgren personnel before they watched the craft demonstrated in ground-effect mode over the Potomac River Test Range on July 25.

“A number of potential sponsor organizations have expressed interest in the hybrid craft’s unique characteristics,” said Jim Hebert, NSWC Dahlgren lead for development of a militarized version of the vehicle. “Marine Corps special forces think it could potentially transport troops directly from ship to objective; members of the Surface Warfare Development Group believe it could address fast attack craft threats; and the Counter Narcotics Terrorism Group expressed interest in its possible use to locate and stop go-fast boats.”

Plans to transform the UH-19XRW into an unmanned craft integrated with weapons and sensors were also discussed at a similar event held at Quantico Marine Corps Base on July 24. The Sly Fox team, comprised of junior engineers from Dahlgren and Quantico, are collaborating in all phases of design, development and evaluation.

Although designed as a normal hovercraft, surfaces can be added to the craft for operation in ground-effect. In this mode, the craft can reach a height of six feet above the surface, enabling it to operate where many conventional boats cannot. It can achieve a faster speed than fast boats while going over obstacles such as sandbars, marshes, land, and rocks.

“The UH-19XRW is a ground effect machine with an attitude. Making this craft unmanned opens the door to a wide variety of operations,” said Greg Buchanan, Sly Fox mentor. “I’m excited to see what innovative designs the team comes up with.”

The Sly Fox team envisions a militarized craft -- operated in a manned or unmanned variant -– that can be deployed for littoral combat, amphibious operations, riverine and coastal combat.

“Unlike a normal hovercraft which is limited to fairly smooth terrain, this craft can operate over rugged terrain -– and fast,” added Buchanan. “We’ve discussed the craft’s potential around littoral environments but the field is wide open from desert operations to potential missions in the arctic. The team’s testing will also include operations over fields of grass.”

The purpose of the briefings at Dahlgren and Quantico was to raise awareness of the craft’s potential impact on several important missions. NSWC Dahlgren is also looking for sponsors to support an advanced development program to develop the mission specific modules and weapons.

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