Navy Refining Unmanned Surface, Underwater Vehicle Command Structures

November 14, 2019 4:44 PM
Sailors assigned to Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron 1 (UUVRON 1), mobilized with Undersea Rescue Command (URC), perform maintenance on a Bluefin-12D, an unmanned underwater vehicle, on board the Norwegian construction support vessel Skandi Patagonia near URC’s submarine rescue chamber in November 2017. US Navy photo.

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy is taking steps to mature organizations that oversee unmanned surface and undersea vehicles, with the Surface Development Squadron (SURFDEVRON) 1 missions, functions and tasks being finalized and a second unmanned underwater vehicle squadron being stood up.

On the surface side, an Oct. 17 document shows SURFDEVRON-1 will fall under Naval Surface Force Pacific for administrative control and under U.S. 3rd Fleet for operational control. The squadron will control the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and any medium and large unmanned surface vehicles, and it will be supported by a slew of San Diego-based training-, warfare development- and maintenance-related commands.

Beyond being the immediate supervisor of three manned ships and a collection of unmanned vessels, SURFDEVRON-1 will “conduct capability developmental operations in support of fleet commander and surface force warfighting requirements and “coordinate and support fleet transition, integration, and operation of medium and large unmanned surface vessels.”

Specifically on the development side, the squadron will “collaborate across the Naval Research and Development Establishment to inform and accelerate experimentation, prototyping, and acquisition efforts and timelines,” with an eye towards experimentation and demonstrations in an operationally relevant environment, as well as help identify warfighting gaps and unmanned systems that could help address them.

On the unmanned transition to the fleet, SURFDEVRON-1 will oversee test and evaluation of unmanned surface systems, lead their mission planning and deployment efforts, ensure safety and security of unmanned surface systems and “collaborate with [Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center] and other organizations as required to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures for medium and large unmanned surface vessels employment.”

On the undersea side, Adm. Charles Richard, who until earlier this week served as the commander for submarine forces, said that a Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Squadron (UUVRON) 2 is “well underway” to being stood up on the East Coast. UUVRON-2 would supplement UUVRON-1, which was established in September 2017 at Keyport, Wash.

“The next step, and we’re still working on it, is to break the UUVRON-1 out of [Submarine Development Squadron] 5, make her a major command in her own right,” he said.

DEVRON-5 is “the operational command responsible for the maintenance and operation of assigned submarines, submersibles, and the Navy’s Ocean Engineering systems. We also serve as the tactical development authority for SUVs, UUVs, Undersea Acoustic Arrays, and Arctic Warfare,” according to its website.

Cmdr. Scott J. Smith, commanding officer of Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron (UUVRON) 1, delivers remarks during Deep Sea Day at the United States Naval Undersea Museum (USNUM) on Nov. 3, 2018. US Navy photo.

Richard, who will now head U.S. Strategic Command, said UUVRON-1 – once removed from under DEVRON-5 – would be relocated to San Diego and would oversee a separate flotilla in Port Hueneme, Calif., that would focus explicitly on the Extra Large UUV.

“This is the next step in expanding command and control capacity for unmanned systems. I’m working through that” with the commander of the Pacific Fleet and commander of Submarine Force Pacific.

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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