Page 30 - Australian Defence Magazine August 2018
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ABOVE:The Bluefin is also used by Navy after an extensive testing program.
RIGHT: Weizhen Zhou from Defence Science and Technology Group demonstrates the Remus 100 Tracking Application on her mobile phone.
system or upgraded under Project Sea 1179 Phase 1 (Mine Hunter Coastal Service Life Extension and Capability Program). Indirectly supporting this project are the Sea 1778 (Task Group Mine Countermea- sures) and Sea 1770 (Rapid Environmental Assessment – Maritime) projects, both of which have acquired both unmanned and autonomous systems.
Seven General Dynamics Maritime Sys- tems (BlueZone) Bluefin autonomous un- derwater vehicles (AUVs) in two sizes (four Bluefin 9 and three Bluefin 12), together with five 38ft (11.6m) Steber fibreglass sup- port vessels - some of which will be config- ured as unmanned surface vessels (USVs) – are being acquired under Sea 1778 Phase 1 (Deployable MCM) and Navy stood up the first unit to operate them, Australian Mine Warfare Team 16 (AMWT-16) last year.
In the hydrographic space, Sea 1770 is acquiring a number of compact, light- weight Hydroid Remus 100 AUVs, which are capable of extremely precise data collec-
tion, albeit at a lower rate of effort than the MCM requirement. Navy also has a deploy- able geospatial team (DGST), who are the hydrographic equivalent of AMWT-16.
“With both of those programs, Govern- ment has specified a spiral development path, so we are buying small numbers, evaluating them and looking at where we want to go from there. Rather than com- mitting ourselves to the acquisition of dozens of each particular platform, we’re taking a broad, comprehensive incremental approach and I think that’s the responsible way to do it,” CMDR Hornsby said.
“We’ll see how Bluefin and Remus and the USVs go and we’ll also monitor other sys- tems. Because these are such ‘trending’ tech- nologies, their lifecycles are, in some cases less than two years, unlike a major platform where you have a long capability lifecycle.”
Supporting major maritime projects
Each of the new maritime platforms being acquired in the next two decades under the
Government’s continuous naval shipbuild- ing plan will have an unmanned or autono- mous dimension to them, from OPVs to Future Submarines.
The specification of an OPV the size of at least the first 12 Lürssen-designed vessels being acquired under Sea 1180 Phase 1 is based upon the requirement to operate UAS, USVs and UUVs. The Hunter class vessels to be acquired under Sea 5000 (Future Frigate) similarly have dedicated space for unmanned aerial, surface and underwater systems.
“The primary mission for the first 12 OPVs is border protection and surveillance and they will have the ability to launch and recover unmanned autonomous systems, but they won’t necessarily be dedicated to that task,” CMDR Hornsby said. “This will also inform our development of Sea 1180 Phase 2 which will possibly acquire another eight OPVs to replace the MHCs and hydrographic ships. That gives us a lot of efficiencies if we do end up with a single design for the mine warfare, hydrographic and patrol (MHP) roles.”
Across the three MHP roles, Navy currently operates 30 vessels across six classes, with the use of USVs and UUVs to perform many of the mine warfare and hydrographic tasks, CMDR Hornsby predicts that this could be reduced to be- tween 20 and 22 ships across one or per- haps two classes.
“By the time we finish building the last of those ships it will be time to begin construc- tion of a replacement for the very first OPV, having been informed by the spiral devel- opment of unmanned and autonomous systems these ships will carry, whether for their mine warfare, or hydrographic, or their patrol and surveillance role.”
CMDR Hornsby says that Defence has committed to the Remus 100 un- der Sea 1770 and two variants of Blue- fin under Sea 1778 for the underwater roles. For the unmanned surface vessel role, he said that Defence was work- ing with the Defence Innovation Hub to develop a number of ideas that could prove beneficial. One such concept is the Ocius BlueBottle autonomous persis- tent USV, which has proven capable of operating in local heavy sea conditions.
“I can neither confirm nor deny that we will select the current Ocius BlueBottle,” he says. “But we’re very excited by the prospects.”
The use of a USV allows the autonomous underwater vehicles to communicate con- tinuously and work effectively together, a
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