The US Naval Sea Systems Command has awarded Leidos a contract to manage, operate and maintain the US Navy’s Overlord and medium unmanned surface vessels (USVs).
The task order with a single award, comprising a base performance period of one year and two one-year options, holds a maximum value of around $95 million if all options are utilized.
Referred to as “drone ships,” these vessels are characterized as low-cost, high-endurance ships capable of being reconfigured for diverse payloads, encompassing anti-surface warfare and strike capabilities suited for unmanned operations.
Though classified as “uncrewed,” these ships are staffed by a complement of six human sailors. While a significant portion of the vessel’s tasks are automated, the onboard human crew of the ship can assume manual control to execute operations if circumstances demand.
“This task order starts an important phase in the Navy’s evolution of USVs and integrating them into distributed maritime operations,” said Dave Lewis, Leidos Defense Group senior vice president and Maritime Systems operations manager.
“The power of this technology lies in its ability to operate independently and extend the horizon of crewed ships. We look forward to supporting the Navy as they continue this important journey into the future,” he added.
Commenced in 2018, the US Navy initiated the Ghost Fleet Overlord Program to hasten the inclusion of large unmanned surface vessels (LUSVs) into its fleet.
The core goal of this program was to convert sizable commercially available vessels into autonomous entities. The program’s objective was achieved through long endurance transits and participation in fleet exercises. The ships were even outfitted with modular launchers capable of launching SM-6 missiles.
InIn the Navy’s current fleet, Leidos has delivered four operational medium-sized USVs: Ranger, Mariner, Sea Hunter, and Seahawk. The USV Ranger notably participated in a range of fleet-level exercises and demonstrations. The ship autonomously covered a distance of 28,982 nautical miles and underwent trials with various payloads.
In a ceremony held last year, the ship was handed over to the Navy for further refinement and fleet experimentation, alongside the USV Nomad.