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US Navy Takes Delivery of Larger, More Sophisticated Autonomous Vessel

unmanned surface vessel US Navy autonomous
Seahawk is a larger and more sophisticated USV (Leidos)

Published Apr 8, 2021 8:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Navy took delivery of a new autonomous vessel known as Seahawk. The vessel built by Virginia-based Leidos features a composite trimaran hull and is substantially larger than other U.S. Navy USVs. The vessel will join the Navy’s Surface Development Squadron (SURFDEVRON) based in San Diego which was developed to encourage innovation, experimentation, and combat readiness.

Seahawk is a long-range, high-availability autonomous surface vessel with a composite trimaran hull. According to Leidos, the medium-displacement unmanned surface vehicle (MDUSV) will enhance capabilities for naval operations. In addition to being substantially larger, it has significantly increased capabilities compared to smaller USVs in terms of range, seakeeping, and payload capacity. Seahawk is designed to operate with little human involvement, thus providing a forward-deployed and rapid-response asset in the global maritime surveillance network.

“We didn’t just put an autonomous navigation system onto an existing ship,” said Dan Brintzinghoffer, Leidos Vice President for Maritime Solutions. “Every mechanical and electrical system on Seahawk has unique configurations designed to run for months at a time without maintenance or a crew.”

The trimaran’s displacement is 145 long tons fully loaded. This includes 14,000 gallons of fuel that can power the twin diesel engines for a substantial length of time. 

Seahawk’s upgraded design follows an evaluation of over 300 lessons learned from Sea Hunter, Leidos’ earlier USV vessel. These upgrades were based on joint evaluations by Leidos and the Navy and include upgraded electrical systems, a payload mounting system, and a test operator control station.

The Office of Naval Research awarded Leidos the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to build the vessel, with an approximate value of $35.5 million, in December 2017. Construction of the vessel was principally performed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.