The US Navy has entered into an agreement with defence contractor Textron to weaponize the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV), a remotely-operated vessel that is deployed from littoral combat ships.
While the CUSV was originally intended to conduct minesweeping operations, it notably features a 14-foot modular payload bay to allow it to carry out surface warfare roles. According to a statement from Textron, potential payloads could include missiles, designators, sensors, and remote weapons stations.
The US Navy purchased its first minesweeping CUSV from Textron in 2014, and awarded the firm a $14.8 million contract for two more in April 2017.
To date, the Navy has used the vessels to tow the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), which emits signals that cause mines to detonate.
CUSVs are 40-feet long and can achieve speeds of up to 35 knots. Though the US has been successful in weaponizing unmanned aerial vehicles, other countries have been quicker to arm unmanned surface vessels.
Both Singapore and Israel already operate the Protector USV — also known as the “death shark” — an unmanned vessel capable of fielding a .50 calibre machine gun, a Gatling gun, or a grenade launcher.