Autonomous Vessel's Transit Test, Exercise Dawn Blitz Participation
by C. Todd Lopez, DOD News
January 18, 2021
A Ghost Fleet Overlord unmanned surface vessel, part of a
partnership between the Defense Department's Strategic Capabilities
Office and the Navy, recently traveled a distance of more than 4,700
nautical miles, almost entirely autonomously. Afterward, it
participated in exercise Dawn Blitz where it again spent nearly all
of its underway time operating autonomously.
An unmanned surface vessel, part of the Strategic Capabilities Office's Ghost Fleet Overlord program, recently made a trip from the Gulf Coast to the coast of California, almost entirely by traveling autonomously. In December, it participated in exercise Dawn Blitz, where it also demonstrated its autonomous capabilities. (Photo by U.S. Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office - January 12, 2021)
"This is a
historic milestone for the program and the Navy. It represents what
SCO does best: integrate mature technologies to accelerate service
priorities and create new capabilities for our warfighters,'' Jay
Dryer, director of the SCO said.
The Ghost Fleet Overlord
program is part of an effort to accelerate the Navy's push to
incorporate autonomous vessels within its fleet to better expand the
reach of manned vessels. Autonomy includes more than just
straight-line passage through large areas of the ocean; it also
involves such things as collision avoidance and following the rules
of the sea.
The Navy's efforts to adopt the unmanned vessel
concept involve several classes of ships and an array of missions,
such as offensive operations and intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance with reduced risk to crew and legacy vessels. The
Ghost Fleet Overlord program has demonstrated continued maturity in
the autonomous USV concept since it stood up in late 2018.
The most recent
display of that maturity involved a USV traveling from the Gulf
Coast to the coast of California, moving autonomously approximately
97% of the time. While the USV did have a crew on board, remote
mission command and control for the trip was done from a remote
location by sailors with Surface Development Squadron One.
One of the few times the USV was guided by its onboard crew was when
it traversed the Panama Canal.
Optionally manned vessels
provide a stepping stone to allow the Navy and its sailors to more
easily become familiar with the concept of autonomous operations
than what would be possible with a fully autonomous ship.
After arriving on the West Coast of the U.S., the Ghost Fleet
Overlord USV participated in December's Dawn Blitz exercise with the
Navy and Marine Corps. There, it successfully demonstrated
compliance with international regulations for preventing collisions
at sea, station keeping, loiter and transit missions. It was the
first time a Ghost Fleet Overlord USV interacted with actual assets
in the Navy fleet.
During its participation in Dawn Blitz, the
Ghost Fleet Overlord USV operated autonomously for more than 130
hours and traversed roughly 950 nautical miles — accounting for
approximately 98% of its underway time.
December 6, 2020
- Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCU 4) comes alongside the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) to conduct a replenishment-at-sea (RAS). Essex is participating in Exercise Dawn Blitz, a scenario-based exercise designed to build interoperability between the Navy and Marine Corps team. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wesley Richardson)
The Ghost Fleet
Overlord program has been an accelerant to the Navy's adoption of
unmanned surface vessels, enabling it to more rapidly bring such
vessels into the fleet.
"Our close partnership with SCO on
the Overlord program is accelerating the technology demonstration,
CONOPs development and operational command and control of unmanned
surface vessels in direct alignment with the Navy's plans," CAPT
Pete Small, Navy Program Manager for USVs, said.
To help the Navy advance its
goal to incorporate autonomous vessels within the fleet, the SCO's
Ghost Fleet Overlord program has taken commercial ocean-going
vessels and integrated both commercially-available and
government-provided equipment on board to create unmanned surface
vessels. Phase II of the Ghost Fleet Overlord program, which focuses
on the integration of government-furnished command-and-control
systems and payloads and more complex and challenging naval
operations experimentation, began in September. The SCO will
transition its two Ghost Fleet Overlord prototypes to the Surface
Development Squadron One by the end of fiscal year 2021. The Navy is
currently acquiring two more Ghost Fleet Overlord prototypes to
accompany the two SCO built to continue unmanned systems testing and
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