The MSRON 4 (Naval Expedition Safety Squadron), an American naval expedition squadron, conducted tests on the UD-GARC (Unmanned Diesel Greenough Advanced Rescue Craft) with the USCGC Razorbill cutter for the U.S. Coast Guard. operates at sea.
The Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain 2022 exercise, which took place from January 31, 2022 to February 11, 2022, was used to test the new unmanned aerial vehicle. These are annual naval exercises organized by services and agencies responsible for maritime security in the continental United States, including the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. The main purpose of these maneuvers is to counter the security of the US naval infrastructure and naval forces, including rapid attacks and attacks from the sea by subversive boats and boats full of explosives.
The possibility of using unmanned ground systems in carrying out this type of mission has been analyzed for many years. In this case, first of all, attention is paid to the ability to ensure the safety of personnel operating at great distances from endangered waters and suspicious floating objects, often filled with explosives. In addition, at the current level of existing technology, surface drones have the ability to respond, in addition to performing patrol tasks related to recognition and warning.
For this purpose, ground drones are designed to carry a number of task modules that can even include missiles and barrel weapons. These modules can be additionally designed so that they can be moved and used on any platform – not just on ships. As a result, such weapon blocks can be designed for installation at stationary facilities and vehicles at any time, including remote control.
“Whenever we can put unmanned systems between us and bad people, we can keep our people safe … The use of UD-GARC reduces the risk of IEDs exploding on ships, and we can still accomplish our mission. It also reduces the number of crew, which means less crew fatigue and less cost for the fleet in the long run. ”
Paul Seiffert – Chief Engineer, Marine Applied Physics Corporation
During the Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain 2022 exercise, another type of surface drone proposed for the US Navy, the UD-GARC, developed by the Marine Applied Physics Corporation, was tested. The tests were intended to validate the usefulness of this type of solution and to make the necessary changes and improvements to support its naval forces and infrastructure.
Interestingly, the UD-GARC drone did not differ from other similar solutions of this type, which were developed and already produced in the world according to the scheme. Basically, it is always a motorized floating platform with a maximum of eleven meters and a navigation system that ensures safe navigation: both on board the ship and in remote control mode. The differences arise in the design itself, which can be based on commercial flat-bottomed motor boats, as well as made from scratch for a specific buyer.
The latter solution is optimal for the user, because a specialized ground drone has all the structural elements dedicated to the task at hand. Thus, it can be made in covert technology, have additional armor, as well as special equipment that facilitates the assembly of weapons and reconnaissance systems, for example.
However, such a solution is expensive and requires constant investment if the entire structure is developed during the service. The platform itself needs to be upgraded with all the equipment and the driver. These costs can be reduced by using the first option, ie using a mass-produced ready-made platform for different buyers. In this way, the cost of working on the boat is distributed among all its buyers, and the military pays only for special equipment.
The UD-GARC drone is one such solution. It is based on the family of multi-role, guided GARC (Greenough Advanced Rescue Craft) motor boats, primarily designed for search and rescue operations. Thus, despite their relatively small size (length 3.6 m and width 1.73 m), these units are designed to work in very difficult weather conditions.
During the Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain 2022 exercise, an unmanned version of the boat was tested and, above all, for the first time, it was equipped with an automatic detection and tracking system and a rangefinder. The training scenario involved the detection, identification, tracking and tracking of enemy ground units (played by MSRON 4 squadron boats). The set of sensors used will allow us to control weapons systems in the future, including the systems installed in the drone itself.
All this was done remotely by a crew far away from the drone. Experts from MSRON 4 noted that the crew consists of a maximum of four people (steering wheel, navigator, mechanic and crew member) when performing such tasks. Now, when it comes to ground drones, this number can be limited to two people working in a safe and comfortable place.
The results of the UD-GARC tests must now be analyzed by US Navy experts. Formally, the purpose of these analyzes is to “determine the best course of action for technology.” In fact, it will be a continuation of several years of discussions about the introduction of drones to protect their forces in general. Working on UD-GARC drones is no different, it was before new and several other similar programs.
However, none of them ended with the implementation and serial production on a scale known to other solutions in the US Navy. One sign of the expected change was the Spartan Scout program, which began in January 2002 in the United States. It was initially carried out by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, which developed various types of mission modules for mounting on remote-controlled seven- and eleven-meter rigid-bottomed RHIB (Rigid-hull inflatable boats).
There was always a constant pattern. First of all, the tested motor boats must have basic, permanent equipment (remote control system, navigation and anti-collision system, data transmission system) that allows safe navigation. Second, special missions by drones were to ensure the security of the task modules. Thanks to them, the Spartan Scout drones would be used, among others, to perform anti-mine missions, to fight submarines, to deliver accurate strikes on ground and land targets, to protect their forces and to carry out reconnaissance missions.
For this purpose, a special equipment system has been developed for lowering and lifting, for example: modified Mk 104 troll, AN / AQS-24 sonar, AQS-14/20 towed side surveillance sonar, sonoboys and Flash type ZOP sonar. It was also planned to add weapons in the form of ZOP-type Mk 54 or LHT torpedoes, a 7.62-mm GAU-17A multi-barrel Gatling machine gun and guided missiles, such as Hellfire-type weapons.
Interestingly, although work on the task modules has already been completed with concrete solutions, discussions are still ongoing on the transfer of their target platforms to the US Navy. Despite the previously prepared results and the experience gained in the U.S. Navy Research Office, ONR Department of Marine Research) therefore the “unmanned aerial vehicles” program still exists.
U.S. Navy experts work, among others:
- flexible, nature-inspired biopropellers for fast, calm and efficient swimming;
- Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (USVs) for the Wider Future Naval Capabilities Program;
- MDUSV (Medium-Range Unmanned Ground Vehicle);
- hydrodynamics of drones.
Despite this continuous, several years of work, it is really difficult to find a concrete plan for the introduction of “naval guard dogs” in the US Navy. Americans make a big mistake because many other, non-American companies offer their solutions to the market, and for less money, they already offer their systems to different naval forces.
One such solution is, for example, the ULAQ-type armed, unmanned submarine AUSV (armed unmanned surface-to-surface vehicle) with a hull length of 11 m. , because both companies actually started working on the drone in October 2020. Four months later, the Turks released a prototype of the drone and began naval tests. On May 25, 2021, the ULAQ unmanned aerial vehicle successfully passed fire tests. Then, a Turkish Cirit missile was used to hit the target without any problems.
The Israelis have a better solution. Their Rafael concern is developing the Protector unmanned submarine, which was originally based on a seven-meter and now an eleven-meter hull. This ground drone is operatively used by the Israeli, Singaporean and Mexican navies. He has already been baptized in shooting, acting, inter alia, in the Persian Gulf.