US Navy deploys USVs on historic visit to Japan

Two medium-sized unmanned surface vessels (USVs) operated by the US Navy’s Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One (USVDIV-1) arrived at Fleet Activities Yokosuka on 18 September as part of a planned visit to Japan, the service announced on 21 September.

USVs Ranger and Mariner are participating in Integrated Battle Problem (IBP) 23.2, a major US Navy exercise being conducted by the US Pacific Fleet to develop, test, and evaluate the integration of unmanned capabilities to create operational advantages.

According to the service, IBP 23.2 was launched in August and is the third multi-domain unmanned capabilities exercise and will centre on testing and developing capabilities and concepts for medium and large USVs as well as advanced manned-unmanned teaming operations in the Indo-Pacific.

The Pacific Ocean crossing of Ranger and Mariner from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam was made with a small crew on board. Both USVs belong to a small but growing fleet of prototype USVs being fielded by USVDIV-1 to test and validate a range of capabilities, including surface and subsurface combat, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, as well as command and control.

“Unmanned and autonomous technologies are key to growing our distributed maritime operations framework.” said Rear Admiral Blake Converse, deputy commander of US Pacific Fleet.

“By proliferating our presence in the Pacific and increasing the fleet’s situational awareness and lethality, we give ourselves more options to make better decisions at all levels of leadership,” Rear Adm Converse added.

The USV deployment to Yokosuka follows a series of complex naval drills, including training manoeuvres under Large Scale Exercise 2023 where they boosted the maritime domain awareness of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group.

“Our approach is focused on integrating, exercising, and refining tactics, techniques, and procedures for immediate application into real world operations with the fleet.” said Commander Jeremiah Daley, commanding officer of USVDIV-1.

“Since standing up USVDIV-1 as a pre-commissioning unit in 2021, we continue to turn fleet feedback from exercises into adapting technology and requirement generation in order to provide realistic and impactful capabilities that future USV programs of record will bring to the Navy,” Cmdr Daley added.

by Jr Ng