For unmanned ships, the Navy is always developing a maintenance strategy – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense

The Experimental Unmanned Sea Hunter is the precursor to the Navy’s proposed robotic warship fleet. (US Navy photo)

SNA: The senior naval officer in charge of surface warfare requirements says the future of unmanned ship maintenance service is a still evolving picture and will require its own strategy.

“Any rig you build will have to have a sustainment structure and of course for an unmanned platform we’re not going to do any planned maintenance at sea,” Rear Admiral Paul Schlise said, Director of Surface Warfare Requirements, also known internally in the Navy as N96. “I think it’s a picture still being painted.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the Surface Navy Association’s national symposium, the One-Star Admiral said the issue remained an open question. He suggested that “condition-based maintenance” will be important for the maintenance of the unmanned fleet.

Condition-based maintenance generally refers to the use of detection technologies on board ships to help predict when certain parts or systems will fail so that the service can plan to bring the ship back to port before a breakdown does occur and to provide shipyards with advance information on repairs. will be necessary. (The military is currently considering a similar strategy.)

Breaking Defense reported this summer that the industry predicts that smaller unmanned systems will be consumable and will not require regular maintenance. Larger unmanned vessels will likely end up in private shipyards for maintenance, industry executives have said.

“There are a lot of repair and overhaul sites that we have access to. It doesn’t have to be the big ones where we send all the carriers or a destroyer, ”Joe DePietro, vice president of Lockheed Martin, said in August. “Because we understand how to plan for maintenance and we know how to work with the customer on how to contract for maintenance, we are in a purely spatial discussion. “

While Navy leadership regularly discusses the service’s plans to flood the fleet with unmanned technology, the issue of maintaining these systems is a less discussed topic.

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One concept used in the commercial shipbuilding industry is a separate vessel that acts as a submarine tender, but for unmanned vessels. This vessel allows mariners to navigate to the location of unmanned systems and maintain them at sea.

But before the Navy can craft the strategy Schlise referenced or tap into the commercial industry for its own unmanned systems maintenance ideas, the service apparently still has a battle in Congress over how it uses the unmanned platforms. driver in general.

During a panel on Wednesday, Representative Elaine Luria, D-Va., A former Navy Commander and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said she was still not convinced the Navy had actually explained how she was going to integrate unmanned systems into the fleet. Specifically, she criticized the service’s suggestions to withdraw proven warships in order to free up funds to invest in untested technology.

The service brought this message to the fore in 2019, and it was greeted with an outcry of bipartisan and bicameral anger. The idea quickly died when then-vice president Mike Pence boarded the aircraft carrier Harry Truman (CVN 75) to declare the ship would not be retired more than two decades earlier.

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