The US Navy has signed contracts with six companies worth a total of $41m for the research of large unmanned surface vessels (LUSVs).

Each contract includes an engineering support option, which will increase the total value of all contracts to $59m if exercised.

Huntington Ingalls, Lockheed Martin, Bollinger Shipyards Lockport, Marinette Marine, Marinette, Gibbs & Cox and Austal USA received the contracts following a Request For Proposals released last year.

These contracts are set to improve the specifications and requirements of LUSV. They have been established to carry out reliability studies with possible solutions before bidding for a detailed design and construction contract.

US Navy Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406) programme manager Captain Pete Small said: “These studies contracts will allow the navy to harvest the learning from our land and sea-based prototyping efforts and work directly with industry to refine the requirements for an affordable, reliable, and effective Large Unmanned Surface Vessel and reduce risk for a future design and construction competition.”

The LUSV programme aids the Future Surface Combatant Force architecture of the US Navy by developing and implementing low-cost and durable unmanned vehicles to complement manned surface combatants.

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In May last year, the US Navy established a new squadron designed to integrate unmanned surface vessels into the naval fleet and support experimentation for the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG 1000) fleet.

Known as Surface Development Squadron ONE (SURFDEVRON ONE), the squadron will focus on accelerating the delivery of new surface warfighting concepts and capabilities to the fleet in line with the National Defense Strategy (NDS).