Unmanned systems are an excellent choice for undersea threat identification and neutralization. They can operate in contested environments and gather important intelligence, and they are able to solve an increasing number of important strategic problems, all while keeping the warfighter out of harm’s way. They greatly mitigate and manage the digital fog of war.
As part of their ongoing development efforts, General Dynamics Missions Systems was selected to demonstrate several of their solutions to the above challenges at the Navy’s annual Advanced Naval Technology Exercises (ANTX) 2019.
- The Theater Battle Management System (TBMS) provides an interconnected environment that enables operational management from multiple locations
- General Dynamics’ adaptations of CaSHMI and Topside provide an interface to track and manage unmanned assets.
- General Dynamics’ high speed radio link based on 4G LTE technology provides the above-water link between systems, and acoustic modems provide underwater communication.
- The BluefinTM-9 UUV is capable of optical inspection and threat identification.
To round out their demo, General Dynamics asked for a SeaTrac USV to conduct an unmanned survey in a contested environment, to locate and identify potential threats from the surface. Together, these components demonstrate a system that solves the three identified challenges
At a high level, the ANTX demonstration simulates a real-world scenario, which begins with an intelligence report of a threat in an important waterway. Using the TBMS, teams at different locations are aligned and prepared for the overall operation. Then, the USV is deployed from a surface ship to transit to the contested area and perform a survey to locate the threat. Once the location has been determined, the UUV is deployed from a manned submarine to approach the target and obtain images to identify the threat.
To control the USV from Topside and CaSHMI, the team at SeaTrac implemented an interface using the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) protocol. This enables mission commands and waypoints to be sent to the USV, and also provides real-time feedback from the USV to the command and control system of the vehicle’s location and speed.
– Mark Casolara, Chief Engineer at General Dynamics
The ANTX demo began with an overview of the system, and the loading of the survey mission to search for the target. With the proper approval granted through the TBMS, the SeaTrac USV was released to perform the mission: the commands were sent over the high speed LTE link from shore to the USV, and once underway, the USV’s track was shown on the screen as the vehicle performed the survey.
The USV simulated "finding" the target, which then resulted in the approval and releasing of the UUV to transit to the target location, again with the same interface and approval system. Using an acoustic modem, the UUV sent updates on position and speed to the surface ship, which were relayed to shore and displayed on the system as the UUV travelled to its destination. Once there, the UUV simulated the image acquisition and returned.
On shore, the mission was displayed on several screens for the audience, as well as being shown through General Dynamics’ virtual reality interface. This interface consolidates data from multiple assets, and allows an operator to more quickly and easily assess a complex situation.
The ANTX demo showcased a system that provides effective cross-domain communications, a high level theater battle management system, and the ability to manage and control multiple manned and unmanned systems from a consistent user interface. The overall project was completed quickly and smoothly.
Mark Casolara, Chief Engineer at General Dynamics summarizes: "Working as part of a "can do" team with SeaTrac on this project was critical to the success. Both teammates had to execute quickly to achieve success. The SeaTrac team had to quickly develop the JAUS interface to enable control of their USV from our system. They provided great supported leading up to ANTX, on the water and off, helping to ensure our ANTX demo went off without incident."