Navy Launches Final Development of Bluefin 21 UUV
The Program Executive Office, Littoral and Mine Warfare’s (PEO LMW) Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUV) Program Office has begun development of the new Battlespace Preparation Autonomous Undersea Vehicle (BPAUV), under a $9.2 million contract awarded Sept. 9 to Bluefin Robotics Corp. of Cambridge, MA.
DID has covered a number of developments related to the USA’s new anti-submarine doctrine, designed to counter the threat of ultra-quiet diesel submarines in shallow littoral waters. Battlespace preparation is an important component, and this award also relates to the USA’s overall littoral warfare capability and the ongoing design of the mission package complements for the USA’s new Littoral Combat Ship.
Launched from a surface vessel’s crane or ramp, the Bluefin 21 BPAUV is designed to travel on a preset mission plan, following waypoints while recording bottom maps and other oceanographic data. After the vehicle is recovered, its data is transferred via the LCS command and control system to the post-mission analysis software. Contact information and environmental data are then uploaded to the Mine Warfare and Environmental Decision Aids Library (MEDAL).
The Bluefin 21 BPAUV’s batteries power the vehicle for 18 hours at 3 knots, covering 150 meter swaths in depths up to 200 meters. Its state-of-the-art navigation system integrates an attitude heading reference system, and Doppler velocity log data with periodic global positioning system updates, allowing precise navigation and target location capabilities. A 455 kHz side-scan sonar provides 7.5 centimeter to 10 centimeter resolution imagery.
The BPAUV acquisition leverages a prior $8 million effort under the Office of Naval Research, which helped develop BPAUV launch and recovery procedures applicable to the LCS, as well as the procedures for integrating the BPAUV into the fleet’s command and control infrastructure.
Capt. Paul D. Ims, UUV program manager (PMS 403), said:
“The BPAUV is a key element of the Littoral Combat Ship’s (LCS) mission packages, providing important intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions for mine warfare and other mission areas… The Bluefin 21 vehicle provides the required covert operational flexibility to hunt mines and gather environmental data to support intelligence preparation of the battle space.”
Under the contract, the Navy will buy one BPAUV system, comprised of two vehicles and support equipment for delivery in December 2006. The $9.2 million contract includes a $2.4 million option for a second system to be procured during fiscal year (FY) 2007. Including engineering services, the total program through FY 2008 is valued at $10.8-$11 million. NAVSEA release.
Founded in May of 1997, Bluefin Robotics is registered in Massachusetts, USA, as a privately held “C” corporation. The company was formed from a core team of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is still closely associated with it.