UAVs, Blimps, and HSV-2, Oh My!
The Boeing Co. in St. Louis, MO received a $13.9 million modification to a previously awarded firm-fixed-price contract (N00019-05-C-0045) to provide persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance UAV services for an Afloat Forward Staging Base, and on the High Speed Vessel, in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism. Work will be performed onboard a Navy vessel in the Pacific, and is expected to be completed in September 2006.
While the exact equipment was not specified in the release, DID covered that original contract and can offer additional details. We can also fill our readers in on the unfortunately-acronymed High Speed Vessels (HSV).
One could look at Boeing’s UAV systems and use elimination, but it so happens that the original $14.5 million U.S. Navy contract N00019-05-C-0045 involved Boeing’s ScanEagle UAV, a long-endurance, semi-autonomous robot plane that was originally designed to scan the waters for tuna schools. In recent years it found itself playing an important role for the US Marines instead, during land clashes like the September 2004 Battle of Fallujah. With this latest contract, it would appear that the ScanEagle’s role is quickly evolving toward persistent area surveillance on land and sea, and that planners see it as a platform that can be deployed from a wide variety of ships. The US Navy is also experimenting with blimps and related LTA vehicles in a persistent surveillance role (see FOX News | Wall St. Journal article), and the two platforms may prove to be very complementary.
The Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, MD issued this contract.
With regard to the HSV, we’d personally hesitate to give a vessel the same acronym as the well-known Herpes Simplex Virus; nevertheless, the US military operates three vessels with the HSV designation. One is Austal’s HSV 4676 Westpac Express catamaran.
The others are by Austal’s competitor Incat Australia, whose US operations are conducted via Bollinger/Incat USA LLC in Lockport, LA (thanks to Australian reader J.P.D. Hodgman for corrections & assistance):
- The HSVX-1 Joint Venture, a 96m Evolution 10B wave-piercing catamaran that looks like a trimaran at first glance, but isn’t. Just hours after Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Joint Venture sped into the shallow waters near the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, acting as an afloat forward staging base for Marine Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Teams and Navy SEAL commandos. It is almost certainly the vessel to which the ScanEagles will be deployed. Joint Venture, appropriately enough, was a joint service acquisition in 2001. Rear Admiral (ret.) and Office of Force Transformation director Arthur Cebrowski was a strong advocate for the program. Joint Venture’s charter ended in July 2005.
- HSV-2 USS Swift, a 98m wave-piercing catamaran that has been playing a significant role in the New Orleans relief effort. HSV-2 is, of course, also the designation for genital herpes. The HSV-2 Swift is a US Navy ship, and was delivered in August 2003. It has been chartered on and off over the years, and in May 2008 the USA chartered Swift for another 1-5 years.
- Incat/Bollinger also built the TSV-1X Spearhead a 98m Evolution 10B wave-piercing catamaran that is designated as a “Theater Support Vessel”. The customer in this case was the US Army, and the craft was delivered in November 2002. The ship completed her charter period, and now serves as the passenger ferry T&T Spirit for the government of Trinidad & Tobago
These fast-moving, aluminum hulled ships are based on commercial ferry designs, and have proven extremely useful for fast transport of intact fighting units. The US Marines see a significant role for them in future, and DID has also noted that the Austal and Incat vessels are part of a suite of research ships that are helping to develop concepts, capabilities and reconfigurable mission modules in support of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program.
Austal, one of the firms who has pioneered these fast transport ship designs, is also teamed with General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works on a trimaran hull design for the LCS competition. They’re competing against a Lockheed consortium that includes Bollinger Shipyards, but the Lockheed design is based on a modified conventional monohull.