MHI showcases Whale USV

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has taken the opportunity at the DSEI-Japan exhibition in Chiba to showcase its Whale unmanned surface vehicle (USV).

Designed by the Maritime Unmanned Systems Development Department of MHI’s Naval Ship & Maritime Systems Division, the multirole Whale USV is presently based on an 8.8 m-long monohull watercraft with a 3 m beam and displaces around 6 tons.

The Whale USV has also been used as a testbed for several types of unmanned systems, including unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and rotary-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as expendable mine disposal (EMD) devices.

The sea vehicle, which was displayed with a rotary-wing UAV, is managed by a proprietary command and control (C2) system called CoasTitan. According to MHI representative Akira Imai, CoasTitan is capable of managing simultaneous multiple UAVs, USVs, and UUVs for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. Data transmission, collection, and exploitation is also performed autonomously to aid decision makers.

Seeking to alleviate perennial manpower challenges, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) is planning to boost capacity by procuring up to 17 USVs for mine-countermeasures (MCM) operations.

The USVs will be integrated to the service’s new Mogami-class frigates to provide an organic, standoff MCM capability. The USVs will be equipped with indigenously developed EMD devices to neutralise mines, and will also be able to function as a ‘mothership’ to deploy and command UUVs.

The UUV type is expected to be MHI’s own OZZ-5 UUV, which will serve as the search and identification component of the MCM system. The UUV measures 4 m long and 0.5 m wide with a weight of 900 kg and is based on a prototype developed by the Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Agency (ATLA). The OZZ-5 is equipped with a dual-imaging sonar suite that enables it to discern buried objects at low frequencies while possessing the ability to perform high-resolution scans of exposed objects on the seabed.

Development of the yet-unnamed JMSDF USV has been undertaken since 2017 under its Outrange Mine Countermeasure Operation programme.

by Jr Ng