ARLINGTON, Va. – Textron is planning to load up on guns and missiles for its Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV.

The 39-foot CUSV, which is developed to perform mine sweeping and countermeasures for the mine warfare package on the littoral combat ship, is getting ready to be developed further with new lethal and non-lethal payloads, which could be anything from a missile to a remotely operated gun system, such as the FN Herstal’s “Sea deFNder.”

Textron has signed a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the Surface Warfare Development Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, to pursue the project.

“We’ve been starting to work on ’Well, what else can you use this system for?’ ” said Wayne Prender, Textron’s senior vice president of control and surface systems. “It clearly has more capability, we designed it with flexible, common systems in place. And that’s where we’ll begin exploring with the U.S. Navy through this CRADA that we’ve signed.”

The agreement was first reported by USNI News.

The CUSV is designed to launch from the littoral combat ship and operate within line-of-sight, though Textron says it can operate over the horizon as well with satellite communications links.

The idea of putting a gun or a missile on an unmanned vehicle like a CUSV is appealing – the Israelis use a similar system for port security – but it presents an array of engineering challenges, said Bryan Clark, a retired submariner and analyst with Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The problem with remotely operated machine guns on a boat about the same size as a standard rigid-hulled inflatable boat is stability, he said. The operator will be using a camera to target the gun remotely, which will have a limited rage of view, plus the boat will be unstable in choppy waters, which means it won’t be very accurate.

“It’s pretty scary, seeing a boat driving around with a big machine gun on it, but its not a great latch-up,” Clark said. “It’s more of a deterrent than a capability that would be effective.”

Adding a missile, such as Raytheon’s AGM-176 Griffin or the Hellfire, might be a better bet if it has an infrared sensor or was GPS guided, Clark continued, but even then if the missile comes out at a strange angle because of choppy swells, it might not be so easy.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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