Large Unmanned Surface Vessel
No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS)
The No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS) program seeks to design a ship that can operate autonomously for long durations at sea, enabling a clean-sheet ship design process that eliminates design considerations associated with crew. NOMARS focuses on exploring novel approaches to the design of the seaframe (the ship without mission systems) while accommodating representative payload size, weight, and power.
NOMARS aims to challenge the traditional naval architecture model, designing a seaframe from the ground up with no provision, allowance, or expectation for humans at sea. By removing the human element from all ship design considerations, the program intends to demonstrate significant advantages, to include size, cost, at-sea reliability, survivability to sea-state, and survivability to adversary actions such as stealth considerations and resistance to tampering. The program also will strive for greater hydrodynamic efficiency via hull optimization without requirements for crew safety or comfort.
NOMARS isn’t only focused on the ship. Understanding how unmanned ships can be optimally designed for cost-effective, scalable maintenance is a critical piece of the design trades being explored. At the conclusion of this program, it is envisioned that NOMARS will have significantly improved knowledge and understanding of how to build large numbers of affordable and reliable unmanned warships. This, along with insights about ways flotillas of such ships can be effectively maintained and operated, will enable new capabilities for the U.S. Navy.
The NOMARS program is envisioned to have two tracks. Track A (Integrated Seaframe Design and Maintenance) will create a framework to evaluate potential design trades against performance requirements, both in terms of the design of the human-less seaframe, as well as the maintenance architectures that would be needed to operate the seaframe. Track B (Enabling Sub-system Technologies) will allow for agile development of relevant subsystem technologies, with a focus on self-adaptive health management for systems relevant to and of similar complexity as that associated with the hull, mechanical, and electrical systems of a seaframe.
On 13 October 2020 DARPA awarded seven contracts for work on Phase 1 of the NOMARS program, which seeks to simultaneously explore two competing objectives related to unmanned surface vessels (USV) ship design: (1) the maximization of seaframe performance when human constraints are removed; and (2) achieving sufficient vessel maintenance and logistics functionality for long endurance operations with no human crew onboard. NOMARS aims to disrupt conventional naval architecture designs through creative trade space explorations that optimize useable onboard room considering a variety of constraints. This should pave the way for more capable, affordable small warships that can be procured and maintained in large numbers.
Autonomous Surface Vehicles, LLC, Gibbs & Cox Inc., and Serco Inc. received Phase 1 Track A awards, and will work toward developing novel NOMARS demonstrator conceptual designs. These awards will focus on maximizing vessel performance gain across new design criteria, with potential considerations to include: unusual hull forms, low freeboard, minimizing air-filled volumes, innovative materials, repurposing or eliminating "human space" exploring distributed system designs, and developing architectures optimized for depot-maintenance.
Barnstorm Research Corporation and TDI Technologies, Inc. received Phase 1 Track B awards, and will develop robust approaches to ship health-monitoring via novel Self-Adaptive Health Management (SAHM) architectures, which will be pivotal to achieving NOMARS at-sea endurance and reliability objectives. InMar Technologies and Siemens Corporation also received Phase 1 Track B awards; the former will develop new techniques for morphing hull structures to maximize performance, while the latter will implement toolsets previously developed through the DARPA TRADES program to design optimized material structures for novel NOMARS ship concepts.
NOMARS is expected to uncover future benefits through improved understanding and design of unmanned surface warships. In Phase 1, performers will conduct large trade space exploration studies which will provide insights and tools for future USV ship development programs. Following this, Phases 2 and 3 of the program will build prototype hardware demonstrating some of these concepts, culminating in an "X-ship" seaframe that can be used for demonstration, testing, and future ship design experiments.
On 04 March 2021 L3Harris was chosen for phase one of the two-phase No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS) program. The L3Harris design concept will streamline NOMARS’ construction, logistics, operations and maintenance life-cycle. The company teamed with VARD Marine to validate the concept and design of the architecture and hull, mechanical and electrical systems. The L3Harris design features an advanced operating system that can make decisions and determine actions on its own – without direct human interaction. This concept optimizes autonomous surface ship operations to support the U.S. Navy’s future missions.
“L3Harris continues to pioneer innovative autonomous solutions that offer fully automated and integrated ship control and preventative maintenance systems to the U.S. Navy and its allies,” said Sean Stackley, President, Integrated Mission Systems, L3Harris. “The NOMARS program selection reinforces our commitment to deliver highly reliable and affordable autonomous solutions that transform the way the U.S. Navy conducts its future missions.” L3Harris is a world leader in Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) systems, with over 125 USVs and optionally manned vehicles delivered. The company’s USVs are actively serving U.S and international navies, universities, research institutions and commercial businesses.
The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) announced 09 August 2019 that it intended to issue a solicitation, N00024-19-R-6314, for the award of multiple conceptual designs of the Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV). The LUSV will be a high-endurance, reconfigurable ship able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions to augment the Navy’s manned surface force. With a large payload capacity, the LUSV will be designed to conduct a variety of warfare operations independently or in conjunction with manned surface combatants. The LUSV will be capable of semi-autonomous or fully autonomous operation, with operators in-the-loop (controlling remotely) or on-the-loop (enabled through autonomy).
On 04 September 2020 Huntington Ingalls Inc., Pascagoula, Mississippi (N00024-20-C-6319); Lockheed Martin Corp., Baltimore, Maryland (N00024-20-C-6320); Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC, Lockport, Louisiana (N00024-20-C-6316); Marinette Marine Corp., Marinette, Wisconsin (N00024-20-C-6317); Gibbs & Cox Inc., Arlington, Virginia (N0002420C6318); and Austal USA LLC, Mobile, Alabama (N00024-20-C-6315), were each being awarded a firm-fixed price contract for studies of a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel with a combined value across all awards of $41,985,112. Each contract includes an option for engineering support, that if exercised, would bring the cumulative value for all awards to $59,476,146. The contract awarded to Huntington Ingalls Inc. is $7,000,000; the contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Corp. is $6,999,978; the contract awarded to Bollinger Shipyards Lockport LLC, is $6,996,832; the contract awarded to Marinette Marine Corp. is $6,999,783; the contract awarded to Gibbs & Cox Inc. is $6,989,499; and the contract awarded to Austal USA LLC is $6,999,020.
Work will be performed in various locations in the contiguous U.S. in accordance with each contract and is expected to be complete by August 2021, and if option(s) are exercised, work is expected to be complete by May 2022. Fiscal 2020 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount $41,985,112 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. These contracts were competitively procured via Federal Business Opportunities (now beta.SAM.gov) with eight offers received. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, DC, is the contracting activity.
The U.S. Navy is moving forward to develop large, medium and small size Unmanned Surface Vessel [USVs] to support operations in blue and littoral waters. The Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (Large USV) is a 300 foot [~100 meter], 2,000-ton, corvette-sized vessel designed to carry both sensors and weapons. These drone ships, which the Navy nick-named the "Ghost Fleet", could serve as radar pickets for a carrier strike group to detect low-attitude anti-shipping cruise missiles. The LUSV could also equipped with vertical launching cells for anti-air and anti-missile defense missiles as well as offensive cruise missiles or anti-submarine weapons. At present, the US Navy has no corvette-class ships in commission. The Sea Hunter drone ship was much smaller than the LUSV, being only 132 feet [41 meters] long and displacing 140 tons.
The Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) is a reconfigurable, multi-mission vessel designed to provide low cost, high endurance, reconfigurable ships able to accommodate various payloads for unmanned missions and augment the Navy's manned surface force. Future missions and payloads will be informed as the concept of operations is developed. While unmanned surface vehicles are new additions to fleet units, they are intended to be relatively low developmental technologies that combine robust and proven commercial vessel designs with existing military payloads to rapidly and affordably expand the capacity and capability of the surface fleet.
The program benefits from years of investment and full scale demonstration efforts in autonomy, endurance, command and control, payloads and testing from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) and Office of Naval Research (ONR) Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV)/Sea Hunter and Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (OSD SCO) Ghost Fleet Overlord Large USV experimentation efforts.
In a sign of how rapidly this field is advancing, the 2007 Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) Master Plan identified four classes of USVs, the largest of which was the Fleet Class USVs, 11 meter [36 feet] long planing or semi-planing hull craft. The Fleet Class USV would provide moderate speed/endurance while towing MCM sweep gear or high speed and very long endurance to support ASW, SUW, or EW missions. They also could support manned operation through the ability to remove and replace their mission systems in less than 24 hours.
In September 2017, Rolls-Royce unveiled a plan for a 60-meter unmanned naval vessel, shown in concept art sporting a sleek stripe and surrounded by quadcopters. At the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium near Washington, DC, in January 2018, the company displayed concept art for a variant designed like a Navy ship, with Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned helicopters on its helo deck. The large size of the Rolls-Royce unmanned concept put it in a separate category - a ship that could operate fully autonomously for 100 days at sea.
The Navy's new head of acquisition, James "Hondo" Geurts, told reporters "What I would say with unmanned systems is, I think it has huge potential for the Navy whether that's in the air, on the surface or under. How we talk about that in ship count, I'm not quite sure … I think unmanned systems have the potential to rapidly increase capability we have on both our current capacity of ships, and as we go to 355 ships."
Atlas North America (the US branch of Atlas Electronics Group), at the 2019 Symposium of the American Surface Warfare Association (SNA-2019) catered to the US Navy's future Small Arms (SSC) strategy for the unattended surface vehicle, and introduced a design called Medium USV. This medium-sized surface unmanned ship had a displacement of 1,500 tons to 2,000 tons. The mid-ship island layout had two multi-tasking load zones.
Sam LaGrone of USNI News reported March 13, 2019 that “These are 200- to 300-foot [vessels], 2,000 tons. I’m not sure what the final hull form will be, that’s what we are using today in terms of what the Ghost Fleet buy will be,” Rear Adm. Randy Crites, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, said during a press budget briefing. The LUSV would be about a third the size of the FFG(X), which could displace upwards of 6,000 tons. In Fiscal Year 2020, the Navy budgeted $400 million for two of the proposed Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles in its research and development budget line. The Navy plans to continue buying two a year until FY 2024. The corvette-sized USVs are being developed to field different types of sensors and, eventually, vertical launch system (VLS) cells for a variety of guided missiles.
The Navy wanted to build something that is very affordable and that then allow potentially the Navy to procure them in large numbers, which helps us to solve some capacity problems. When vessels are out at sea, and the sea is really big, some of the things that are important are endurance and range, persistence, sea keeping, which means the ability to continue operating when the weather gets bad and the seas get worse, and then also, payload capacity. So, all of those things get better with a larger vehicle.
The Navy is examining technologies for a compact, rapid-attack weapon. The transformational potential of this initiative leverages significant improvements in target location to reduce the required endurance of the torpedo, and thereby also its size, allowing the weapon to be carried on a broader range of future platforms. The Navy is also working toward creating a range of decoys and local area jamming capability for use as countermeasures against torpedo attack. In the near-term, the Navy will employ substantially improved countermeasures to protect its own ships from a new generation of enemy torpedoes. For the future, the Navy is examining the use of an off-board platform, such as a large unmanned surface vehicle (USV) to carry some of these systems.
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