US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) announced on 11 January 2024, the launch of the Vanguard an Overlord Unmanned Surface Vessel (OUSV) from the Mobile Alabama shipyard.

The Vanguard is the first from the programme for future Large Uncrewed Surface Vessels (LUSV) – each within the range of 200ft-300ft in length – to be built ‘from the keel-up’ for autonomous operations, according to NAVSEA.

Currently undergoing outfitting and testing, Vanguard, a joint effort from Austal USA and L3HArris, will transit autonomously to San Diego, where sister vessels OUSV1 Ranger and OUSV4 Mariner are stationed, along with two additional Medium USVs, Sea Hunter and Seahawk, developed under a separate programme. 

Phase one of the Overlord programme involved the conversion of two existing commercial fast supply vessels into USVs for the production of the OUSV1 Ranger and OUSV2 Nomad.  OUSV4 Mariner and OUSV3 Vanguard were built as part of Phase two of the programme. 

“We are excited to see the progress the L3Harris and Austal teams are making on the construction of Vanguard,” said Capt. Scot Searles, program manager of the Unmanned Maritime Systems program office. “Designed and built as a USV from the beginning, Vanguard will bring new, built-in capabilities that our previous OUSVs did not possess.”

Speaking of the Ghost Fleet Overlord program in June 2021, following the second complete transit of the Pacific by Nomad, Strategic Capabilities Director Jay Dryer emphasised that the programme accelerates service priorities in Naval prototyping by integrating mature technologies as part of a the Navy Unmanned Campaign Framework. 

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“Our close partnership with SCO on the Overlord program is accelerating the technology demonstration, CONOPs  development, and operational command and control of unmanned surface vessels in direct alignment with the Navy’s plans,” said Captain Pete Small, Navy Program Manager for USVs.

Leidos was awarded a contract worth up to $95m for the management of the Overlord programmes long with the Navy’s Medium USV programme, in August 2023, with a one-year base period and two one-year options.