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Unmanned vessel could soon be working for US Navy

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Technology that sent unmanned aircraft over Iraq and Afghanistan soon could be steering unstaffed naval boats for such dangerous tasks as minesweeping, submarine detection, intelligence gathering and approaching hostile vessels.

Defense contractor Textron Inc. demonstrated what it calls its Common Unmanned Surface Vessel technology Thursday at its Textron Marine & Land Systems shipyard in New Orleans.

``The unmanned vessels will keep the dull, dirty and dangerous jobs away from our personnel,'' said Ryan Hazlett, director of the advanced systems group of AAI, another Textron subsidiary.

The boat _ painted in Navy gray and with a striking resemblance to a PT boat _ is 39 feet (12 meters) long and can reach a top speed of 28 knots (50 kph). Using a modified version of the unmanned Shadow surveillance aircraft technology that logged 700,000 hours of duty in the Middle East, the boat can be controlled remotely from 10 to 12 miles (16 to 19 kilometers) away from a command station on land, at sea or in the air, Hazlett said.

Farther out, it can be switched to a satellite control system, which Textron said could expand its range to 1,200 miles (1,930 kilometers). The boat could be launched from virtually any large Navy vessel.

It's not the first unmanned boat. But Hazlett said others generally have been boats simply refitted with remote control equipment. The CUSV was designed from the first step not to have a crew.

``It uses space without having to worry about the things that are required for a manned vessel,'' he said.

Using diesel fuel, the boat could operate for up to 72 hours without refueling, depending upon its traveling speed and the weight of equipment being carried, said Stanley DeGeus, senior business development director for AAI's advanced systems. The fuel supply could be extended for up to a week on slow-moving reconnaissance missions, he said.

Accompanied by another small vessel with its control equipment, the boat was shown off to the public with a sweep up and down Bayou Sauvage at full speed. DeGues said the boat could be operated in as little as 5 feet of water because of its shallow draft.

The CUSV would be hard to sink by accident.

Hazlett said that if the boat overturns, it shuts down its engines, rights itself, restarts the engines and resumes the mission. DeGeus said that should the boat lose contact with its command, it's programmed simply to return to its launching point or another pre-determined location.

Additional technology under development would allow the CUSV to ``detect a sailboat with a family on it'' and pass safely _ without controller intervention, DeGeus said.

The boat had its initial sea trials in 2009 and passed a recent U.S. Navy exercise drill off the coast of Virginia when it approached a potential ``enemy vessel'' that was near a restricted area and warned it off with an acoustic system featuring DeGues' voice. This summer, it will travel to Camp Pendleton in San Diego to test its mine detection and sweeping capabilities, DeGeus said.

Textron has produced two CUSV prototypes. DeGues said commercial production could begin within nine to 12 months after the company receives a contract. Hazlett wouldn't reveal how much development cost, but said it has all been funded by Textron. He also wouldn't speculate on the eventual cost of each vessel, saying that would depend upon equipment ordered by a customer and the number of boats built. Textron is pursuing contracts to supply the U.S. Navy, as well as foreign navies.

If the company gets contracts for the CUSV, construction will take place in New Orleans.

<한글기사>

무인함정 해저 위험 임무 수행

이라크와 아프가니스탄 상공에 무인 항공기를 띄운 기술이 조만간 해군 함정에도 적용돼 무인 선박이 잠수함 탐색이나 기뢰 제거 등과 같은 위험하고 어려운 임무를 도맡아 할 전망이다.

미국 방산업체인 텍스트론은 12일 뉴올리언스에서 원격 조정 무인선박 CUSV(Com mon Unmanned Surface Vessel)를 공개했다.

CUSV는 길이 12m에 최고 시속 28노트(시속 50km)의 제원을 갖고 있다. 군용 회색으로 칠해진 겉모습은 PT보트(어뢰정)과 흡사하다.

텍스트론 측은 CUSV가 중동지역에서 70만 시간 가량 임무를 수행한 무인항공기 기술을 응용해 육ㆍ해ㆍ공 장소에 관계없이 선체에서 16~19km 떨어진 곳에서 조종이 가능하며, 위성통제시스템으로 전환하면 1천930km 떨어진 곳에서도 조종할 수 있다 고 설명했다. 게다가 사실상 어떤 해군 선박에서도 출발시킬 수 있다고 한다.

CUSV는 디젤연료를 사용하는 데 속도와 적재량에 따라 재급유없이 최대 72시간 까지 연속 운행이 가능하며, 단순 첩보 수집을 위해 느린 속도를 유지할 때는 일주 일간 연속 사용도 가능하다.

또 배가 물속에 잠기는 깊이가 얕아 수심 1.5m 해역에서도 기동할 수 있다.

CUSV는 이와함께 전복되더라도 복원력이 있어 별다른 문제가 없으며, 원격조정이 되지 않을 때는 출발지 혹은 특정 지점으로 가도록 사전에 정보를 입력할 수 있다고 관계자들은 설명하고 있다.

텍스토론은 올 여름 샌디에이고 캠프 펜들턴에서 CUSV의 어뢰제거 시연이 있을 것이라고 예고했다. 이번에 2개의 시제품을 내놓은 텍스트론 측은 수주를 받으면 9 개월~12개월 이내에 본격적인 생산에 들어갈 수 있다고 밝혔다.

CUSV는 어뢰 제거, 잠수함 탐지와 함게 정보 수집, 적 군함에 접근 등 위험하고 어려운 임무를 수행할 수 있을 것으로 기대되고 있다.

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