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Though unmanned systems have participated in exercises before, the involvement of four different vehicles, operating both autonomously and by manned teams, is a major milestone.
The vessels Seahawk, Sea Hunter, Nomad and Ranger, will execute a range of missions. The prototypes will work side-by-side with exercise participants, carrying payloads, providing intelligence, and most significantly, gathering data in a real-world environment to determine how they will function in the larger fleet.
The significance of the occasion is not lost on Navy Capt. Scot Searles, program manager of the Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406) program office.
“The integration of autonomous USVs with manned combatants will give fleet commanders much-needed enhancements to maritime domain awareness, thereby increasing decision speed and lethality in surface warfare.” Searles said.
PMS 406, the office responsible for the participating RIMPAC prototypes, is a program office within the Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC).
“While our prototyping efforts have grown and matured significantly in the last four years, their performance in the RIMPAC exercise marks another significant milestone in manned-unmanned teams.” Searles said.
The manned-unmanned team, in the case of RIMPAC, will include service members and civilians supporting the mission from various organizations all over the country.
The PMS 406 assets participating in RIMPAC are the Overlord Unmanned Surface Vehicles called Nomad and Ranger and the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles called Sea Hunter and Seahawk. Though primarily operated and maintained under the control of PMS 406, personnel from Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One within Surface Development Squadron One control much of the practical execution.
Brian Fitzpatrick, PMS 406 principal assistant program manager for Unmanned Surface Vessels, said, “RIMPAC is an incredible opportunity to not only show that we can develop these vessels, but we’re also showing the Navy’s commitment to unmanned and manned teams.”
RIMPAC is the largest joint maritime exercise in the world. Lasting over five weeks and spanning massive areas in the Pacific Ocean, the exercise will include hundreds of ships, submarines and aircraft—along with over 25,000 personnel.
Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, three submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 29 to Aug. 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The world’s largest international maritime exercise, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships among participants critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series that began in 1971.
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