Dec. 23 (UPI) -- The 2020 defense appropriations bill recently passed by Congress includes two Large Unmanned Surface Vessels for the U.S. Navy.
The ships, which are 164 feet long and operate without a crew, were requested by the Navy for 2020, with eight more to be bought in a five-year projection. The bill specifically seeks a plan from the Navy regarding the ships' use, and forbids installation of expensive vertical launch system for missiles.
"Incremental upgrade capability for a vertical launch system may be addressed in future fiscal years," the agreed-upon bill says. "It is directed that no funds may be awarded for the conceptual design of future LUSVs until the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) briefs the congressional defense committees on the updated acquisition strategy for unmanned surface vessels."
The bill, three months late, was sent to the White House for President Donald Trump's signature last week.
The Navy envisions a "Battle Force" including unmanned surface and underwater vehicles, in addition to traditional warships -- a major shift in creating a lower-cost and more realistic path to the 355-ship fleet it envisions within 10 years.
The Navy created Surface Development Squadron One in May, with the mission of exploring new naval surface warfare tactics that include teaming manned and unmanned vessels. It also announced a request for proposals in December 2018 for production of a Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel, 132 feet long, and another request for proposals of the full-size LUSVs in April 2019.