USMC to test USV for missile delivery 22/02/2024 | Fabio Di Felice

According to Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the Deputy Commandant of the US Marine Corps for Combat Development and Integration, the Marines will put a new type of missile-delivery low-profile maritime drone, following a year of development, that will be tested in an operational scenario soon.

These Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) are designed to carry 2 Naval Strike Missiles (NSM) to resupply Marine units ashore, stealthily delivering their payload without attracting any attention. The Corps had this idea studying the drug runners’ semi-submersible boats used by the drug cartels seen in Central America. Their under-detection capability is possible thanks to the fact they produce almost no wave while gliding through the water, as confirmed by Lt. Gen. Heckl. They have already proved they can be launched and recovered from the Navy’s Expeditionary Fast Transport vessels and the Marines’ Stern Landing Vessels.

The new testing will demonstrate the full evolution of the concept of using these USV to resupply Marines ashore with the missiles they need for their NMESIS platforms (in picture). Several years ago, the Marine Corps worked with Raytheon to mount a Naval Strike Missile on a modified unmanned Joint Light Tactical Vehicle chassis, using a Remotely Operated Ground Unit for Expeditionary (ROGUE) Fires as the launcher. Since then, ROGUE NMESIS has emerged as a key part of the Marine Corps’ pursuit of anti-ship capability.

Lt. Gen Heckl also confirmed that these new USV will have a primary role in the next Army-led Project Convergence Capstone 4 event in California, playing in a “multi-domain mobility corridor” phase of an exercise designed to test equipment for resupply and logistics missions in a wartime scenario when adversaries would seek to cut off sea lines of communication. The Corps looks pretty happy about how the new testing capability is performing and, above all, because it is cheap and can be deemed expendable if lost. It is still unknown which may be the bigger contractor for production, in case the USMC may decide to pursue buying these in larger numbers.

Lt. Gen. Heckl also confirmed - without providing additional details - that the Corps has not abandoned the idea of loitering munitions launched from unmanned maritime vessels, USV or UUV, in support of the Marine forces.

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