The Corps’ potential fight across the expanse of the Pacific will require a mix of unmanned ground, aerial and ships to move supplies and create dilemmas for enemy forces.
On Sept. 11, the Corps put out a request for information from industry leaders for an unmanned vessel capable of traveling 500 nautical miles without resupply.
The information request “is simply conducting market research to explore unmanned inter-theater amphibious solutions capable of supporting littoral operations in a contested environment,” Maj. Ken Kunze, a Marine spokesman told Marine Corps Times.
The Corps provided no other details about its request for information related to the long range unmanned vessel.
But, the Corps has been expressing a lot of interest as of late regarding unmanned surface vessels.
Lt. Gen. Eric Smith said the Corps was testing unmanned 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats.
In July the Corps tested an unmanned boat built by Textron Systems known as the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle at the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise held aboard Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, according to Wayne Prender, the senior vice president for applied technology and advanced programs for Textron.
Textron’s unmanned vessel has a range of 10 nautical miles to 20 nautical miles and a 24-hour endurance depending on the payload, Prender told Marine Corps Times at the 2019 Modern Day Marine expo in Quantico, Virginia.
Prender believes Textron’s unmanned ship is “well suited” for the Corps’ long-range unmanned surface vessel program.
During the experimental exercise at Camp Lejeune, Prender said that the Textron vessel conducted a high value vessel protection.
The ship’s mission, Prender said, “was to keep itself between a high valued asset and potential enemy or threat.”
The system’s sensors were able to identify threats and position the ship between itself and the asset and protect it, Prender explained.
The unmanned boat is also an open system, Prender said. That means you can put whatever weapon systems “you can dream on it.”