Call it the Goldilocks effect on autonomous undersea vehicles (AUVs): Congress is looking to find unmanned underwater systems that aren't too big, aren't too small and just right for the job. Lawmakers want to know exactly what that job is, too.
In legislative language in the Senate Armed Services Committee's proposed 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers note the growing sophistication in AUVs, but express concern that the systems' sizes and capabilities might not match up with their missions.
"For example, AUVs that are small enough to be carried on submarines are not likely to have space for the redundant power and control systems needed to support independent long-endurance operations. They may be best suited for missions where the AUV is expended or acts as an extension of the host submarine's sensors or weapons," the language states. "Vehicles in the middle, such as the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV), are too large and expensive to deploy in quantity but are likely too small to host the systems needed for long-endurance independent operations."
Lawmakers are calling on Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to assess the number and types of AUVs needed to most effectively execute naval missions. The language directs Mabus to submit by Feb. 1, 2016 a report outlining what those missions may be, the different AUV classes as well as other undersea sensors and communications systems, and the number of AUVs required in each class. The language also asks for details on how these requirements may impact current submarine force structure.
The committee's focus is on efficiency as it examines the future of unmanned undersea systems.
"As AUVs transition from science and technology projects to acquisition programs, the Navy should assess the number and type of AUVs needed so it can most effectively use the resources allocated to these systems," the language states. "The committee continues to expect the Navy to capitalize, where feasible, on existing expertise and infrastructure at the public shipyards for research, development, engineering, configuration management, acquisition support, technical problem solving, and operations and logistics support, including life-cycle maintenance and mission package support."