Follow That Sub
Taking an innovative, autonomous approach to tracking quiet targets
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
A Continuous Trail
state-of-the art platform performance to provide complete propul-sive overmatch against diesel-electric submarines at a fraction of
their size and cost.
■ “Advance unmanned maritime
system autonomy to enable inde-
pendently deployed systems under
a sparse remote supervisory control
model. This includes autonomous
compliance with maritime laws and
conventions for safe navigation,
autonomous system management
for operational reliability and
autonomous interactions with an intelligent adversary.
■ “Demonstrate the capability of the ACTUV system
to use its unique characteristics to employ nonconven-
tional sensor technologies that achieve robust continu-
ous track of the quietest submarine targets over their
entire operating envelope.”
DARPA initiated the ACTUV program because the
“growing number of adversaries able to build and oper-
ate quiet diesel submarines is a national security threat
that affects U.S. and friendly naval operations around
the world,” according to the agency’s website.
The agency hopes the ACTUV will be able to be
built at one-tenth of the cost of a diesel-electric submarine, which costs about $500 million.
The ACTUV approach potentially addresses a shortage of ASW platforms in the Navy. During the Cold War,
U.S. attack submarines (SSNs) and P- 3 Orion maritime
patrol aircraft (MPA) tracked Soviet submarines to the
maximum extent possible, to both keep commanders
continuously aware of their location and provide valuable training to the trackers on the acoustic characteristics and tactics of the Soviet submarines.
At the height of the Cold War, the Navy’s force
structure included more than 90 SSNs and 37 active
and Reserve operational P- 3 squadrons totaling
approximately 333 aircraft. Today, the long-range ASW
SAIC is under contract to build an unmanned surface vessel designed
to track diesel submarines for more than two months at a time.
■ The Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned
Vessel pushes the threshold of autonomy in maritime operations.
■ At-sea testing is scheduled to begin in early 2015.
■ The program eventually will transition from the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency to the Navy.
At-sea testing of a new unmanned surface ves- sel designed to track submarines is scheduled to begin in early 2015. The innovative Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) prototype will represent an
approach to ASW that never has been tried before and
is possible only with advances in unmanned systems
The ACTUV program, sponsored by the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), is
“developing an autonomous unmanned vessel that
would track quiet diesel-electric submarines for
months at a time, spanning thousands of kilometers of
ocean with minimal human input,” according to Scott
Littlefield, DARPA’s ACTUV program manager.
He said the ACTUV program is structured around
three primary goals:
■ “Explore the performance potential of a surface
platform conceived from concept to field demonstration under the premise that a human is never intended
to step aboard at any point in its operating cycle. As a
result, a new design paradigm emerges with reduced
constraints on conventional naval architecture elements, such as layout, accessibility, crew support systems, reserve buoyancy and dynamic stability. The
objective is to generate a vessel design that exceeds