July 17 (UPI) -- A U.S. Navy request for proposals calls for a new class of unmanned surface vessels.
While the Navy floated performance specifications in February for a fleet of "medium unmanned surface vehicles," the request was officially announced Tuesday. It seeks developers for a craft of up to 164 feet long, to function as a sensor and communications relay in part of a family of unmanned surface systems under development. The craft would be able to carry a payload equivalent to a 40-foot shipping container, operate on its own for at least 60 days before requiring a return to port, and be capable of refueling at sea.
The Navy plans to award a contract for a single MUSV prototype in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, a statement from the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command said. It added that information from potential builders, acquired during a "MUSV Industry Day" conference in February, helped inform the request for proposals.
A 2013 study said that unmanned vessels are particularly suitable for missions including observation and collection of information, mine warfare, military electronic warfare, defense against small boats, testing and training, search and rescue, and the support of other unmanned vehicles.