USVs for Defense TECHNET Indo-Pacific Conference Highlights Uncrewed Vessels By George Galdorisi


The U.S. Navy has taken several actions to define and accelerate its journey to have uncrewed platforms populate the fleet. These include publishing an UNMANNED Campaign Framework, standing up an Unmanned Task Force, establishing Surface Development Squadron One in San Diego and Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One in Port Hueneme, CA, and conducting a large number of exercises, experiments and demonstrations to evaluate uncrewed platforms, including the recently completed Integrated Battle Problem 2023.

This U.S. Navy’s emphasis on uncrewed maritime vehicles was on full display at a recent major international military-industry event. Held in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in mid-November 2023, TECHNET Indo-Pacific drew over 4,000 delegates from throughout the Indo-Pacific region. As in previous years, the conference featured keynote speakers as well as breakout panels.

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Reagan National Defense Forum Highlights Uncrewed Maritime Systems By George Galdorisi


The Reagan National Defense Forum, held every year on a Saturday in early December, is one of the most important national security dialogues of the year. “Everyone who is anyone” in the national security space is either an invited speaker or an in-person attendee.

As the informed readership of Maritime Reporter and Engineering News knows, uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) represent one of the most cutting-edge and innovative technologies in today’s defense space. Given the scope of this event, not every speaker’s remarks were directly focused on uncrewed surface vehicles. That said, what was discussed regarding national security were gaps that the U.S. military needs to fill. Unsurprisingly, discussions regarding technology, innovation and other issues had a strong emphasis on these USVs.

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Fix, Fly, Fight – WIN


from Rotor Review Winter 2024 #163

by Naval Helicopter Association, Inc

By CAPT George Galdorisi, USN (Ret.)

It is hard to believe that Harry Reasoner’s quote about helicopter pilots being different is over a half-century old. Most of you reading this weren’t around when he famously offered his opinion on February 16, 1971. That’s okay, you may have seen the framed quote on a wall in your squadron spaces or just heard it somewhere as part of the tribal knowledge of being part of our community. Here it is:

“The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its very nature wants to fly and, if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by a deliberately incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other and, if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance, the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter.”

“This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts, and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened, it is about to.”

That was then and this is now. If Harry Reasoner was alive today, he likely would never have said this. Why? Our aircraft are routinely the most reliable and mission capable in all of Naval Aviation. This is due, in no small measure, to the dedicated and tireless work of the men and women who maintain our (now-aging) aircraft and make them ready for flight.

During my first squadron tour, one of my fellow first-tour aviators was complaining about how some of the Sailors under his charge were having this or that issue and that it was taking up a lot of his time. Our skipper called him in for a chat. He asked the young lieutenant if he loved flying. The answer was “yes.” “Well then,” our CO said, “these men (all men then, this was the early 1970s) come to work every day and do what they likely don’t love doing so you can do what you do love doing.

Our maintainers are likely challenged more today than ever before. Except for our Osprey fleet (which has its own maintenance challenges) our aircraft are aging. Parts shortages, engendered by budget issues such as continuing resolutions, mean more work for the professionals who ensure the safety of our aircraft. We owe them our thanks.

Military-Industry Conference Highlights the Importance of Uncrewed Vessels


This U.S. Navy emphasis on uncrewed maritime vehicles was on full display at a major international military-industry event. Held in Honolulu, Hawaii, TECHNET Indo-Pacific drew over 4,000 delegates from throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Highlights included:

  • Pacific Fleet is looking for ways to get unmanned surface vehicles forward to desired areas of operations.
  • Pacific Fleet’s strong emphasis on unmanned will enable warfighters to conduct missions in a contested environment that manned systems cannot do.
  • International Maritime Exercise 2022, held under the auspices of CTF 59 in the Arabian Gulf included operations with several regional partners. Navies of these nations explored the capabilities of USVs such as the Saildrone, the MARTAC MANTAS and Devil Ray, and many other USVs from participating nations.
  • Australia has become a leader is USV experimentation. Autonomous Warrior 22 expanded the evaluation of USVs from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States and featured 30 autonomous systems, including Saildrone, MANTAS and Devil Ray.

Military-Industry Conference Highlights the Importance of Uncrewed Vessels

Op-Ed: Military-Industry Conference highlights the importance of Uncrewed Vessels


For those who follow military matters, it is impossible to miss the impact of emerging technologies on changing the character of warfare through the ages. From the time that our cave-dwelling ancestors figured out how to fasten a sharpened stone to the end of a sturdy stick, advances in weaponry have decided the outcome of battles and the fate of nations.

For the U.S. Navy, unmanned systems – especially uncrewed maritime systems – offer the promise of providing the U.S. military with an asymmetric advantage over potential adversaries. Ukraine’s use of weaponized uncrewed surface systems to attack Russian naval vessels has demonstrated just one use of these – as one wag described them – “Swiss Army Knife” platforms.

You can read the full article here



For centuries, sea mines have presented an affordable and effective option in naval warfare. That threat remains today.

The use of sea mines and countermeasures to these weapons have figured significantly in every major armed conflict and nearly every regional conflict in which the United States has been involved since the Revolutionary War.

While many analysts evaluate the ability of the United States to deal with peer adversaries such as China and Russia in terms of cutting-edge technologies, these nations are likely to employ mines in any conflict with the United States.

For all navies, there is only one way to completely, “Take the sailor out of the minefield,” and that is to leverage unmanned technologies to hunt and destroy mines at a distance.


Protecting Offshore Energy Sources


The often fervent dialogue regarding generating energy typically breaks people into two camps. There are those who promote fossil fuel production, and those who favor green energy. Those who favor green energy are sometimes zealous in their arguments that the United States should eliminate fossil fuel dependence and rely only on green energy.

As this debate rages, what is often lost in the arguments on both sides is that regardless of the type of energy being extracted or generated, those platforms that are offshore, especially oil rigs, oil and gas pipelines, and wind farms, are vulnerable to anyone who wants to attack these sources in wartime, or just to make a political statement.

One need look no further than the suspected sabotage of Nord Stream gas pipelines that run from Russia to Europe under the Baltic Sea, or the more recent likely sabotage of a natural gas pipeline between Finland and Estonia, to understand the vulnerability of sea-based energy sources.

While there have been major strides in the development and fielding of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and others, for the foreseeable future, the world’s energy needs will continue to be met primarily by oil and natural gas. Indeed, a Wall Street Journal article earlier this year, “Offshore Oil is Gushing Again,” noted that while just over 60% of available oil rigs worldwide were in use five years ago, today that number approaches 90%. Importantly, it is the offshore oil and gas industry that still provides a huge amount of United States’ energy.

Global tensions typically interrupt the transport of energy across the oceans. Therefore, protecting these offshore energy sources is a national security priority.

Read the article in the latest issue of Sea Technology here

Rotor Review Over the Horizon -A Better Way to Deal with Deadly Sea Mines By LCDR U.H. (Jack) Rowley, USN (Ret.) SWO/EDO

In an era of great power competition, the U.S. Navy is focused on high-end warfare—engaging anti-ship cruise missiles, defeating hypersonic weapons, protecting the homeland and allies from ballistic missiles, leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning and other high-tech weapons. We are focused on defeating those we sometimes still call “near-peer” competitors. Our fleet’s muscle will not make it to the high-end fight, though, if it fears the deceptively destructive naval mine. Here, one former naval officer suggests one way to deal with sea mines by using unmanned surface vessels.

Click Here to Read “A Better Way to Deal with Deadly Sea Mines By LCDR U.H. (Jack) Rowley, USN (Ret.) SWO/EDO” from the Summer ’23 Issue of Rotor Review

Engineering Unmanned Surface Vehicles – Into an Integrated Unmanned Solution from Naval Engineers Journal.

Screenshot 2023-06-19 at 15-12-07 NEJ March 2022_Cover Article.pdf

The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, has proposed that tomorrow’s U.S. Navy grow to 500 ships, to include 350 crewed vessels and 150 unmanned maritime vehicles. While the composition of the future Navy’s crewed vessels is relatively well understood – based on ships being built and being planned – what those unmanned maritime vehicles will look like, let alone what they will do, remains opaque. This article sheds light on missions these unmanned craft might perform and what role AI can play in making them “smart wingmen.” Read More – click here to view the publication online or click here to download as a pdf.

Accelerating Rotary Wing Innovation Through Unmanned Systems


Publisher avatar for Naval Helicopter Association, Inc
from Rotor Review Spring 2023 #160

by Naval Helicopter Association, Inc

One of the great things about working at a Navy Warfare Center, such as Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, is that you have the opportunity to see new technologies envisioned, created, and, in many cases, implemented into the Fleet or Fleet Marine Forces. With over 5,500 government employees, and an equal number of contractors, our warfare center is involved in a breathtaking number of projects.

Increasingly, given the U.S. Navy‘s commitment to unmanned systems and the Chief of Naval Operations’ vision of a hybrid fleet comprised of 350 manned vessels and 150 Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS), a great deal of our work has focused on unmanned systems in all domains: air, surface, subsurface and ground.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accelerated the development and use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Unmanned Ground Systems (UGS), however, the development of unmanned systems in other domains has fallen behind. The Navy has now shifted focus to the development and fielding of multi-mission UMS. To aid in that development, Fifth Fleet established CTF-59 to experiment with UMS and UAS and accelerate their development and fielding.

In late 2022, CTF-59 orchestrated Exercise Digital Horizon. This multinational exercise featured 12 Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) and three UAVs, linked using artificial intelligence, to push the boundaries of these platform’s contributions to important naval missions, especially Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). The importance of Digital Horizon 2022, and a view of what would be accomplished, was highlighted by one naval analyst this way:

Despite the cutting-edge hardware in the Arabian Gulf, Digital Horizon is far more than a trial of new unmanned systems. This exercise is about data integration and the integration of command and control capabilities, where many different advanced technologies are being deployed together and experimented with for the first time.

The advanced technologies now available and the opportunities that they bring to enhance maritime security are many-fold, but these also drive an exponential increase in complexity for the military. Using the Arabian Gulf as the laboratory, Task Force 59 and its partners are pioneering ways to manage that complexity, whilst delivering next-level intelligence, incident prevention and response capabilities.

Digital Horizon 2022 brought together emerging unmanned technologies with data analytics and artificial intelligence in order to enhance regional maritime security and strengthen deterrence by applying leading-edge technology and experimentation in unmanned and artificial intelligence applications for the Navy. A key goal of Digital Horizon 2022 was to speed new technology integration across Fifth Fleet, and seek alternative, cost-effective solutions for conducting MDA missions.

Digital Horizon lived up to the high expectations of all involved. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, Commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. Fifth Fleet, and Combined Maritime Forces described what was accomplished during Digital Horizon 2022 thusly:

We are creating a distributed and integrated network of systems to establish a “digital ocean” in the Middle East, creating constant surveillance. This means every partner and every sensor, collecting new data, adding it to an intelligent synthesis of around-the-clock inputs, encompassing thousands of images, from seabed to space, from ships, unmanned systems, subsea sensors, satellites, buoys, and other persistent technologies.

No navy acting alone can protect against all the threats, the region is simply too big. We believe that the way to get after this is the two primary lines of effort: strengthen our partnerships and accelerate innovation. One of the results from the exercise was the ability to create a single operational picture so one operator can command and control multiple unmanned systems on one screen, a Single Pane of Glass (SPOG). Digital Horizon was a visible demonstration of the promise and the power of very rapid tech innovation.

The results of Digital Horizon 2022 could change the way the world’s navies conduct maritime safety and security. Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are able to amalgamate the sea of data created by unmanned systems into actionable, realtime intelligence for use by commanders, which enables U.S., allied and partner nations to dedicate their crewed vessels to other missions.

Using a two billion dollar ship and a crew of 300 officers, chiefs, and sailors to conduct surveillance operations is not a cost effective solution when a medium-sized commercial offthe-shelf (COTS) USV (such as a MARTAC Devil Ray T-38, one of the participants in Digital Horizon) can be bought or leased in a contractor owned, contractor operated (COCO) arrangement for a relatively modest cost and equipped with state-of-the-art COTS sensors to provide persistent surveillance. During Digital Horizon, the T-38 provided AIS, full motion video from SeaFLIR-280HD and FLIR-M364C cameras, as well as the display of charted radar contacts via the onboard Furuno DRS4D-NXT doppler radar. These were all streamed back to Task Force 59’s Robotics Operations Center (ROC) via high bandwidth radios. The force multiplying potential of unmanned systems demonstrated during Digital Horizon has already been recognized by the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) and the rotary wing community.

Elbit Systems Seagull unmanned surface vessel operates in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 29, during Digital Horizon 2022. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Murphy)
Elbit Systems Seagull unmanned surface vessel operates in the Arabian Gulf, Nov. 29, during Digital Horizon 2022. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brandon Murphy)

So why is this important to us? For those of you who attended the 2021 NHA Symposium and listened to the Flag Panel, you heard that Naval Aviation is on a glideslope to be approximately 40% unmanned circa 2035. Though exact timelines and percentages are impossible to predict, the unmanned future is coming, spearheaded by the MQ-25 Stingray, the MQ-4C Triton and MQ-8C Fire Scout leading the way.

The Fire Scout is currently the Rotary Wing Community’s only “skin in the unmanned game,” and though the MH-60S Knighthawk and MQ-8C Fire Scout are currently embarked onboard Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), where Rotary Wing Aviators and Surface Warfare Officers are developing CONOPS for their use together, the Navy is scaling back its inventory of LCS. This will shrink the opportunities for our community to explore tactics, techniques and procedures to develop man-machine teaming or to develop Fire Scout “smart wingman” in the same fashion that the U.S. Air Force is doing with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and emerging UAVs.

In remarks at the December 2022 Reagan National Defense Forum, Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, said that the Navy intends to stand up additional unmanned task forces around the globe modeled after Task Force 59, noting:

We’ve demonstrated with Task Force 59 how much more we can do with these unmanned vehicles—as long as they’re closely integrated together in a [command and control] node that, you know, connects to our manned surface vehicles. And there’s been a lot of experimentation, it’s going to continue aggressively. And we’re going to start translating that to other regions of the world as well. That will include the establishment of formal task forces that will fall under some of the Navy’s other numbered fleets.

The Naval Rotary Wing Community needs to be part of this emerging technology development, lest we be left behind as the Navy and NAE place huge bets on a force increasingly populated by unmanned systems. As to how we can do this, those of you wearing flight suits are best-qualified to develop new concepts for how our community can leverage rapid developments in unmanned systems in all domains to ensure that we have a warfighting advantage in future conflicts.