Production CUSV to gain new sonars, begin testing and demonstration

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Textron’s Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle program will see two production vehicles built this year, with new side scan sonars being integrated and testing and demonstration to continue through 2019.

Textron began its CUSV program in 2008, after migrating its core competency — command and control for automated systems — from the air domain to the maritime.

After developing CUSV, currently in its fourth generation, Textron began participating in various exercises and demonstrations with the U.S. Navy, such as Trident Warrior 2011 and Trident Warrior 2012. The company went on to compete for, and win, the Navy’s Unmanned Influence Sweep Systems (UISS) program, which aims to conduct minesweeping missions for the Navy by taking humans out of the minefield, and replacing them with unmanned systems. The CUSV can be used for a variety of missions, including mine sweeping and neutralization, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and harbor security.

Last year, the Navy awarded Textron a $14.8 million contract for two additional fourth- generation CUSVs. Textron was also awarded the integration contract for the Q-20 and Q-24 side scan sonars, which are used to detect and identify mines underneath the water.

The company is currently building the two production craft, and later this summer, it will begin integrating those sonars. Through fiscal year 2019, it will begin testing and demonstrating that capability.

“Our technology is continuing to grow and evolve in its mission space for mine countermeasures,” says Wayne Prender, vice president, Control and Surface Systems at Textron Systems Unmanned Systems, in an interview with AUVSI during the Surface Navy Association’s 30th Annual National Symposium.

Recently, Textron signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the U.S. Navy, specifically Dahlgren, the Navy’s Surface Warfare Center, to start initial concepts and early prototypes of surface warfare packages.

This will move Textron beyond just mine countermeasures, into new capabilities.

“It’s pretty exciting to see the growth of unmanned systems in the maritime market,” Prender says. “Maritime is really an emerging market that we think we’re well suited for.”

Moving from the air to maritime has been fruitful for Textron, but there have been challenges along the way. Prender says every development program has it challenges, and every domain is unique, so maritime was no different.

“In the sea, it’s less contained, in terms of the operational space,” Prender says, adding that the company had to work with various technologies such as autonomous collision avoidance technologies.

Despite the challenges though, Prender says Textron’s technology transitioned fairly well to the maritime domain.

While Textron is known for providing its customers with the technology for their respective missions, the company offers a human element as well, as it regularly provides field service representatives to help support its customers, whether it be Marines, sailors or soldiers operating the technologies out in the field, or in the water.

According to Prender, the feedback he gets about the human element of the company is just as rewarding as the feedback he receives about the technology.

“Very often I’ll get emails back from deployed units saying how important our people were in supporting our product and that mission down range,” Prender says.

“While we talk a lot about unmanned systems from a product perspective, supporting it with our people, and the impact that they make, and the feedback we get on that, that’s probably the compliment I appreciate the most.”