US Navy’s Ghost Fleet Overlord unmanned vessel program enters next phase

The US Navy’s office for unmanned and small combatants has started the next phase of the Ghost Fleet Overlord program which is designed to help the navy better decide which unmanned assets to acquire.

As disclosed, the Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) announced October 1 that it has awarded contract modifications to the two industry teams who participated in Phase I of the program.

Phase I converted two existing commercial fast supply vessels into USVs and focused on autonomy system integration; demonstration of navigational autonomy; and hull, mechanical and electrical system reliability upgrades.

The work concluded in September with a successful capstone demonstration of both Overlord vessels executing interactions compliant with the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS). Along with reliability of systems tests, more than 600 hours of autonomy testing was successfully completed during Phase I, including several long-range autonomous transits in a complex navigational environment.

Phase II will be conducted using the same ships from Phase I and will focus on the integration of government-furnished command-and-control systems and payloads and involve more complex and challenging naval experimentation.

Phase II will complete in Fiscal Year 2021 at which point the Overlord vessels will transition to the Navy for further experimentation.

The experiences gleaned from both Phase I and II of Overlord are designed to inform and accelerate the Navy’s Large and Medium USV programs, which are managed by the same team in PEO USC.

The Navy issued a request for proposals on September 5 for the award of multiple conceptual design contracts for the Large USV in fiscal 2020. A RFP for the development of the Medium USV was issued July 16.

A Ghost Fleet Overlord test vessel sits pier-side following a capstone demonstration. Photo: US Navy