Utilizing Unmanned Undersea Vehicles to Counter A2/AD Threats

Contributor:  Christopher Dauer
Posted:  03/19/2012  12:00:00 AM EDT
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While the US’ current efforts on sustaining and modernizing its Navy naturally encompass a range of different programs, one of the greatest areas of focus within the littoral warfare space is unmanned underwater vehicles.

The reasons for that focus are straightforward, as UUVs have the ability to reduce risk to humans while offering potentially increased capabilities. According to James J. Kisenwether, PhD, who heads the Autonomous Control and Intelligent Systems Division at Applied Research Laboratory, Penn State, UUVs can be an extremely effective tool to counter A2/AD threats.

Dr. Kisenwether runs an R&D division that develops and implements signal and tactical processing algorithms for automated detection, classification, localization, and track for both manned platforms (e.g. ships and submarines) and unmanned sensors and systems (e.g. smart sensors and UUVs).  Dr. Kisenwether has worked in all aspects of this area for the 26 years he’s been with the laboratory.

“UUVs by their nature should be low observable as they operate underwater,” he said.  In particular, he said, UUVs would have value in those operational areas where “we do not want to send manned platforms because of asset protection or provocation concerns.”

A specific utility is UUVs ability to search areas for mines, said Dr. Kisenwether.  “Areas can include deep and shallow water near shore areas as well as harbors and dock areas,” he said. “There is also a component of a maritime IED threat that can be a concern.”

Dr. Kisenwether’ s view is thoroughly backed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), which has been investing heavily in UUVs and plans to continue to do so, with expected outlays expected to top $600 million through 2015.

ONR cites a number of factors leading to the focus on UUVs.  “Increased proliferation of inexpensive lethal threats targeting individual warfighters and high-value assets, combined with continued rapid advances in computing, power and energy, robotics, sensors and position guidance technologies,” states ONR’s Science & Strategy Plan 2011, “drives the requirement to augment expensive manned systems with less expensive, unmanned fully autonomous systems that can operate in all required domains.”

The ONR’s vision in this area is to “achieve an integrated hybrid Force of manned and unmanned systems with the ability to sense, comprehend, predict, communicate, plan, make decisions and take appropriate actions to achieve its goals. The employment of these systems will reduce risk for Sailors and Marines and increase capability.”

One concern stemming from a reliance on UUVs in this area, Dr. Kisenwether noted, is the potential for false contacts.  That concern, he said, can be countered over time as the systems sophistication improves while a greater volume of data is collected.

“Typically more information can lead to better classification decisions,” he said. Specifically, he said, “more information can be discerned from fusing data from multiple complementary sensors, or, in some cases, multi-processing using the same sensor but with multiple waveforms over broad frequency bands.”

ARL at Penn State serves as a university center of excellence in defense science and technologies, with a focus in naval missions and related areas. As a DoD-designated, U.S. Navy UARC (University Affiliated Research Center), ARL maintains a long-term strategic relationship with the Naval Sea Systems Command and the Office of Naval Research.and provides support for the other services. ARL provides science and technology for national security, economic competitiveness and quality of life. ARL is primarily a science and technology-based laboratory with leadership in acoustics, guidance and control, thermal energy systems, hydrodynamics, hydroacoustics, propulsion, materials & manufacturing, navigation & GPS, communications & information, and education.

ARL provides a focal point for the development and transfer of new technologies, processes and equipment in a cooperative environment with industry, academia, other Navy acquisition, and in-service use.  The laboratory champions the transfer of advanced technologies and manufacturing processes, in partnership with industry and Navy research development centers, to acquisition programs and fleet operations, as well as to other government agencies and the private sector.

James J. Kisenwether, PhD will be speaking at IDGA’s Surface Warfare Summit, to be held from April 23-25, 2012 in Norfolk, Vir.  For information on the event, visit www.surfacewarfaresummit.com, or call 1-800-882-8684.

Christopher Dauer Contributor:   Christopher Dauer

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