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US Navy News


Puggled and Wabbit Scot.
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The Navy wants to develop and acquire LUSVs, MUSVs, and XLUUVs as part of an effort to shift the Navy to a more distributed fleet architecture, meaning a mix of ships that spreads the Navy’s capabilities over an increased number of platforms and avoids concentrating a large portion of the fleet’s overall capability into a relatively small number of high-value ships (i.e., a mix of ships that avoids “putting too many eggs into one basket”).

ARLINGTON, Va. — As the U.S. Marine Corps considers how to move weapons around contested waters to resupply forces ashore, it’s copying an unusual source: drug traffickers.

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said at the Defense News Conference on Wednesday that logistics remains one of the toughest aspects of the service’s new way of fighting, which calls for distributed, small units across a wide area.

Whereas Marines can often pre-position food, water and spare parts with allies and partners, doing so for missiles and munitions often isn’t an option. And with an enemy looking to cripple the American force by choking off its supply lines, resupplying small units with crewed ships is a risky proposition.

So the Corps is testing a prototype called the Autonomous Low-Profile Vessel.

“We just copied the drug lords down in [Joint Interagency Task Force] South running drugs. They’re hard for us to find, so now we figured, yeah, it works,” Heckl said.

The prototype the Marines have today can carry two Naval Strike Missiles into about 4 feet of water, where Marines would then pull the missiles onto the beach and to the nearest missile battery in need of resupply
, Heckl explained. The Naval Strike Missile is the anti-ship missile used in the NMESIS weapon, or Navy/Marine Corps Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System.

Heckl, who is the Marine Corps’ requirements officer, told reporters after his on-stage remarks that he wasn’t sure how many of these Autonomous Low-Profile Vessels the service may buy. But because of their low cost, he said, “they’re almost expendable” — something that will be important in contested waters where, if spotted, they’d likely be the targets of enemy weapons.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, which falls under his command, is experimenting with a prototype. Heckl said he hopes the service starts buying these unmanned vessels within a couple years. He added that it could become a family of systems, depending on whether a two-missile resupply drone proves valuable during experimentation or if Marines find they need something larger or smaller.

The Corps plans to bring the Autonomous Low-Profile Vessel to the Army’s Project Convergence Capstone 4 event in the spring to test the resupply tool in a major exercise with joint and coalition partners.

More broadly, Heckl said the Corps is considering a range of autonomous options to solve contested logistics problems. “You should try to go after everything autonomous. If you take the air-breather out of it, things get simpler; they typically get more efficient and they get less expensive.”

Heckl pointed to the expeditionary fast transport ship Apalachicola, built at Austal USA’s production line to include autonomy features that allow it to operate for 30 days without a human crew’s intervention. He explained the ship has conducted 1,500 nautical miles of autonomous operations, with humans onboard as a backup but not driving or maintaining the vessel. This could be an attractive option for moving much larger quantities of supplies around, he added.

This intra-theater lift ship can travel at 45 knots —faster than most U.S. Navy ships — and has a massive payload bay inside that could be outfitted to support dispersed Marine units in several ways.

“I want unmanned, autonomous everything, if we can get there,” Heckl said.

Slow and ponderous? Blame McNamara

The defense acquisition system, originally developed by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara in the 1960s, favors evolutionary versus revolutionary change, like unmanned systems the Navy is planning.

The acquisition system and test and evaluation system he created demand that new defense programs (ships, aircraft, vehicles, missiles, etc.) must pass a rigorous course of analysis and testing to be approved for production. LCS and DDG 1000 ran afoul of that system as their failures of system tests delayed their fleet entry, made for longer periods of spending and resulted in much more expensive ships than ever intended..

The slow and deliberate acquisition system to a large degree is in conflict with the Navy’s current plans for unmanned platforms. Indeed, the current acquisition system would need major overhaul to support the rapid fielding of credible new systems in numbers..

Interesting take on the LCS and the DDG 1000.

Unmanned and manned systems in the works

The Navy is exploring unmanned surface ships as eyes and ears of the fleet (as explored in Task Force 59) and as missile shooters. The uncrewed Boeing M/Q-25A tanker aircraft is on the verge of joining the fleet, and it will vastly extend the range of the F/A-18 E/F and F-35C aircraft, as well as serving as a potential strike platform.

The large, unmanned underwater vehicle (XLUUV) continues testing as a potential scout, minelayer and weapon-armed “loyal wingman” of the manned submarine force. The Navy Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Unmanned Systems and Small Combatant (PEO USC) office has many lessons learned from LCS and is proceeding with caution to develop stable systems that can earn congressional approval.

These systems, as well as the new carriers, destroyers, frigates and submarines, are 21st century platforms with capabilities far greater than their 1980s-era counterparts. The challenge is that the Navy must build them to achieve safe passage through the defense acquisition system with good stewardship of public funds as a priority.
The legislative branch is decidedly skeptical of what the Navy is now doing with unmanned systems as a result, and the service must again earn the trust of Congress through a thorough unmanned systems program that passes tests and does not have ridiculously high costs.


Another major challenge is the outcome of recent war games in which the Navy has come in for criticism due to the poor performance of its “crown jewel” platforms. The wargames showed that the Navy would lose at least two aircraft carriers, all of the escorts for those ships and nearly 200 aircraft in battle against China due mainly to its land-based missiles and missile-armed aircraft.

These games, however, deal only in pure numbers (ranges and numbers of weapons) but not with what the Naval War College often calls “intangibles,” which include opponent motivation, level of political involvement in and direction of military action and adversary military doctrine. U.S. wargames have sometimes “mirror-imaged” opponents by assuming that opponents would act with their forces as would a U.S. commander.

The U.S. has made similar mistakes in the past. In the 1970s it was assumed that the Soviet Navy would launch a World War II-style counter-commerce campaign against NATO resupply in Europe. The Soviets possessed over 300 submarines and such a campaign seemed logical. Signals intelligence and other means, however, determined that Soviet submarines would primarily defend their ballistic missile submarines and support the Soviet Army rather than attack NATO convoys.

Likewise, many experts believed the modern Russian Army was a highly effective organization based on observation of decades of Russian military exercises like ZAPAD. The actual Russian performance turned out quite different when they invaded Ukraine.

Wargames offer potential options but are never solutions by themselves.
Changes coming to the Navy?

The lead article is only a proposal but the Disruptive Capabilities Office is very real.


Notes to the New CNO Series
By Shelley Gallup
In past wars, small and well-armed ships, such as destroyer escorts, torpedo boats, and riverine craft have been a necessary complement to large combatant force structure. This need is being exacerbated by the U.S. Navy’s currently small yet top-heavy fleet structure. This contrasts with the force structure and operational concepts of Chinese maritime forces, which have been highlighted by the intrusions of PRC naval, Coast Guard, and maritime militia ships into the territorial waters of the Philippines. The Philippine Navy has only three ships to meet these threats, creating demands for U.S. naval presence that is already stretched thin among its relatively few large combatants. China’s numerous small combatants and maritime auxiliary forces would surely have important wartime roles to play as well, and U.S. large combatants may not be available to address these threats.

Less emphasis on specific technologies and more emphasis on capabilities?

Instead of


More of this


Which is to say, rather than attempting to make each individual platform survivable and put all sensors and effectors on all platforms, increase the number of platforms and distribute the sensors and effectors over them. Then you aren't fighting the ship, you are fighting a flotilla.

Innovation in maritime warfare is strategically significant, continuous, difficult to achieve, and must fight its way through an existing paradigm. Often, by the time innovation is adopted, another construct is appearing on the horizon, resulting in a continuous tail-chase. The U.S. Navy continues to push after esoteric technologies, rather than adopting near-term and less costly capabilities. The proposal here, in support of the bi-modal fleet concept featuring a mix of sea denial and sea control vessels, is the LMACC (Lightly Manned Automated Combat Capability) system. This small combatant vessel concept extends autonomy, machine learning, resilient comms, and passive sensor fusion within a cloud shared by a flotilla or other forces.

The bi-modal fleet structure includes a combination of small, crewed, and autonomous systems working as a networked flotilla. The crewed LMACCs and uncrewed autonomous surface vessels can be built and armed for much lower costs and greater capability than the cost of building one or two more destroyers or frigates. In this systems view, it is the holistic flotilla network that is the capability, rather than the individual platform. The uncrewed vessels act as sensors, and the LMACCs serve as decision arbiters and weapons carriers.

LMACC is intended as an O-3 command, affording naval officers an opportunity to command earlier in their careers and develop critical leadership skills, including initiative, adaptability, and tactical acumen.


That's overstating it a bit; the difference between a frigate and destroyer now is pretty arbitrary and they have the Arleigh Burkes for surface defence, and SSKs for sub surface.

Maybe by USN standards they are thin but in the Atlantic the probably outnumber the combined fleet of everyone else, so not sure who they are preparing for there. It's not WW2 anymore, things will go sideways with ICBMs long before we get to Atlantic convoy stages. And the way supply chains work now, I don't think anyone is really self sufficient for complex equipment production.
Banner day for US Navy news at RealClearDefense

30 year plan calls for 381 crewed ships plus 134 uncrewed ships

100 months (8 years) to build a Columbia SSBN
95 months (8 years) to build a Virginian SSN

175 months (15 years) to build CVN 79

75 months (6 years) to build an Arleigh Burke at General Dynamics
62 months (5 years) to build an Arleigh Burke at HII
50 to 80 months (4 to 7 years) to build a Constellation

WRT the Constellation


Which brings us to this article

In addition, there are also advantages in terms of the ease with which the design could be constructed in large numbers in order to fulfill that need. Construction of the design does not need to be limited to established shipyards; as Serco's representative noted on the Sea Air Space 2024 floor, it could conceivably be built at locations like railworks, if needed. Having access to an easily producible MUSV would be a huge boost to the Navy, particularly amid serious concerns regarding the rate of U.S. ship production, notably in relation to adversaries like China. Just the ability to quickly produce relatively capable vehicles and weapons, especially during a crisis, at relatively low cost, is becoming a major advantage the Navy is seeking to obtain across domains.


Defiant is being procured under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) No Manning Required Ship (NOMARS) program, which aims to field a new medium uncrewed surface vessel (MUSV) prototype. The NOMARS program was launched in 2020, and Serco's involvement in it stretches back to that time.

In 2022, the company was awarded a $68.5 million total-value contract to build, test, and demonstrate its solution as the prime contractor. This is all prior to the start of more rigorous at-sea testing, which a representative for Serco confirmed to The War Zone on the floor of the Navy League's Sea Air Space symposium this week is scheduled to start in January 2025.

Detailed specifications on Defiant's overall proportions have not been released. However, we know that it is a 210-metric ton, medium-sized USV design, per DARPA.

At the front of a model of Defiant displayed at Sea Air Space 2024, for example, there is an angled missile launch system, which is likely what BAE Systems is currently marketing as the Adaptable Deck Launching System, or ADL. A deck-mounted angled launcher, ADL offers vessels with limited below-deck space Mark 41 vertical launch system (VLS)-like capability. The trade-off of ADL is the significant surface-area it takes up on deck for the launch cells is provides; however, given that Defiant has been optimized for maximizing available deck space by removing considerations associated with crews, this is a logical pairing.e.

ADL is a modular design and is currently offered in two-, four-, and eight-cell configurations; with the four-tube version shown on the Defiant model. You can read all about ADL in our previous profile on it linked her

In addition to its missile carrying capability, Serco envisions Defiant carrying other payloads, too. To the back of the model, we see it sporting a shipping container, which could be used to store all-manner of assets; including containerized launchers for drones, electronic warfare and intelligence-gathering systems, communications suites, towed sonars, and more.


This is particularly interesting

As a specific requirement of the NOMARS program, and in order to achieve high levels of reliability, Defiant will adopt DARPA's "graceful degradation" concept. This allows for "individual equipment to fail over time by having enough system-level redundancy to meet full system requirements at speeds of at least 15 knots after one year at sea."

Overall, the demonstrator's design and low-maintenance costs — maintenance on it can be performed at small yacht yards, for example — is meant to significantly decrease the Navy’s cost per mission hour, Naval News reports.

Serco's representative confirmed that the price-tag for the demonstrator, not including any add-on mission systems, is approximately $25 million.


25 Million for a 210 ton vessel transporting 4 to 8 Strike Length missiles and 40 foot sea can with no crew.
Other news


Logistics news

Rear Adm. Phillip Sobeck said “bureaucracy took over” in what needed to go aboard “prior to deploying the ship, in my opinion.” Speaking as part of a contested logistics panel at the 2024 Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition, he said, “we sent the wrong thing in some cases.” In other cases, not knowing what was in the pallets aboard ship was a factor.

“The system [from what’s needed to what’s going where in what quantity] needs to understand itself,” he added. Sobeck said the Navy is working with Defense Logistics Agency on fixing the problems.

The era of free-flowing supplies – from fuel to medicines – to strike and readiness groups at sea, Marines operating from expeditionary advanced bases and aviation units is over, panelists agreed.

“We’ve got to understand ourselves if we’re going to keep speed, scale and tempo” with operational forces in their response to crisis or conflict, Sobeck said. “We’ve got to be data-driven” to “have the


It appears as if there is a bit of stress-testing going on just now.

A key consideration in favor of purchasing used ships is their affordability compared to new builds. A Roll-on/Roll-off (RO/RO) ship with 15 years of service, roughly halfway through its expected lifespan, can be acquired for approximately $60 million, significantly less than the $500 million cost per hull for a new vessel. While new ships offer longer service life, the budgetary constraints faced by the Navy necessitate exploring alternative options to maintain readiness.

I know the article is about transport vessels but Offshore Supply Vessels of the type I mentioned previously are also built all around the world. And all of them can be converted to Optionally Manned vessels quite easily.

If hulls can be procured then the USN can focus its efforts on building launchers and missiles. (And Air Defence systems).