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EDF-2022-DA-NAVAL-MSAS: Medium-size semi-autonomous surface vessel

The goal is to study, design, prototype and test a medium-sized semi-autonomous surface vessel (MSAS) with at least an ISR modular mission payload.

Medium-sized should be understood as a vessel that can host the designed mission modules, be optionally manned based on the level of ambition described in scope and functional requirements sections of this call text.

Semi-autonomy should be understood as a primarily option to operate the platform and mission modules remotely. Due to the constrains related to certain use cases (e.g., legal restrictions, security and safety aspects, non-permissive electromagnetic environment), the vessel should be operable using a minimal manning to oversee the automated functions and/or operate mission modules and/or weapons on-board. Requirements linked to human factors when the vessel is manned (e.g., on-board facilities) and subsequent impact in the design (e.g., size) should be considered.

The main results should be a core platform designed to support unmanned operations with optional/minimal manning, 24/7 littoral operations, ISR missions, and providing versatility in terms of capability packages at affordable cost.

The use of a best practice as guidance to terminology and definitions regarding Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS) is advisable.

As part of the exploitation actions considered by a potential dissemination and communication strategy for sharing information and results towards external stakeholders, a live demonstration focused, in particular, on the Navies of Member States and associated countries should be considered.

The mission modules to be considered are:

  1. ISR as part of the core platform (design & prototype)
  2. Naval Mine Warfare (NMW) (design)
  3. Anti-surface Warfare (ASuW) (design)
  4. Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) (design)

The proposal must address challenges at three levels:

LEVEL 1: Digital and environmental transformation

Proposals must facilitate the cross-fertilization between civil and defence sectors and intend to speed up the adoption of novel autonomy and green energy technologies in the naval domain by developing a MSAS that European navies can begin taking into service starting from the end of this decade.

LEVEL 2: Confined littoral operating environment

A littoral force of smaller and many, rather than larger and few, tends to offer greater flexibility in crisis and conflict, which is why a MSAS has advantages in confined littoral operating environment.

LEVEL 3: Modularity and affordability

Mission dedicated naval assets are typically too expensive and unaffordable for small navies to cover sufficiently board range of coastal naval capabilities. To fill the capability gaps, decisive steps need to be taken towards innovative solutions that are more cost-efficient, affordable and lean in terms of manning. This is possible through modularity, automation/autonomy of certain functions, and through design choices that reduce production and life-cycle costs. Where possible, mission module designs should take stock of existing technologies/components rather than designing completely new solutions.

In particular, proposals must address:

The following tasks must be performed as part of the mandatory activities of the project:

– Studies:

  • Technical feasibility studies must include, at least, the following aspects:
    • core components (e.g., autonomy including COLREG40 compliant re- routing algorithms);
    • secure communications, and command and control (C2);
    • sensor data and other information management principles (e.g., storage and handling on-board, outside, both);
    • mission modules and their integration with the core platform; cyber security requirements;
    • Safety of Navigation assessment, and certifiability according to national and international laws at sea;
    • logistic and user’s package, including emergency procedures.
  • Design:
    • System architecture.
    • Core platform, including ISR module.
    • Autonomy package.
    • Control station (equipment needed for remote/autonomous monitoring/control of MSAS).
    • Secure communication suit (e.g., internal, seashore, sea-sea).
    • Mission modules and mission modules integration.
  • Prototyping:
    • Core platform with all key components, including ISR module.
    • Control station (equipment needed for remote/autonomous monitoring/control of Platform).
  • Testing:
    • Components and system integration.
    • Trials in harbour and at sea.

Functional requirements

(1)         General

  1. Suitable for operating in harsh marine environments with large temperature variations from weather decks to machinery spaces with long mean time between repairs.
  2. Capable of at least 2 000 nautical mile and/or 10 days self-sustained operations at 10 knots. Although the speed should be reliant on hull form, the selection of propulsion plant and propelling system should consider reaching minimum 20 knots at maximum RPM41 configuration.
  3. Along with conventional combustion engine, proposals should consider electrical propulsion, Air Independent Propulsion (AIP), other alternative means (e.g., fuel cells) and/or advanced alternate fuels, as well as an optimal management of the integrated propulsion energy system.
  4. The MSAS should be deployable, including by means of sealift, and capable of a sustained deployment, operating independently or as integral part of a naval task group.
  5. The conceptual approach to the logistic and user’s package should consider advanced techniques related to system diagnostics, and capable of making conditional prognoses. Reduction of cost and time in production and in-service support should be taken into account from design.
  6. Appropriate measures through its design or other means should be considered to reduce all facets of visual characteristics, electronic emissions and own signature, including the monitoring and reduction of radar, acoustic, infrared and magnetic signatures
  7. The system should consider AI42 algorithms for automatic situational awareness, threat identification and behavioural analysis. Without prejudice of the man-in-the- loop condition when required, those AI algorithms should improve decision- making in real-time without the intervention of the control station.
  8. A self-defence weapons suit should be considered as part of the core platform. Any specific mission module (e.g., ASuW, ASW) should incorporate specific weapons as required by the concerned mission.
  9. The option of standoff operations, cooperating with, or deployed from the MSAS, should be also considered. This could result in making the MSAS a remote- controlled data hub platform comprised of smaller USVs43 and/or UUVs44 and the MSAS operating as a rely-station to extend the operating radius.

(2)         Positioning, Guidance, Navigation and Control

  1. Alongside the encrypted (military) GNSS45, an alternative positioning system should be considered, in order to provide redundancy and positional reliability in a GNSS denied environment.
  2. Continuous generation and updating smooth, feasible and optimal trajectory commands to the control system according to the information provided by the navigation system, assigned missions, vessel capability and environmental conditions.
  3. Identification of USV’s current and future states (i.e., position, orientation, speed, acceleration) and their surrounding environment based on past and current states of the USV, also environmental information (e.g., winds, currents) obtained from sensors.
  4. Control system to determine the proper control forces and moments to be generated, in conjunction with instructions provided by the guidance and navigation system, while satisfying desired control objectives.

(3)         Autonomy package

  1. Without excluding and fully compatible with a manned operation mode to be used when appropriate, an autonomy package should enable the MSAS to be operated until the Degree 3 in accordance with the 100th session of IMO’s46 Maritime Safety Committee (MSC 100): The M-SASV is remotely controlled without seafarers on board. The ship is supervised from another location and controlled and operated when necessary.
  2. It should enable the vessel to navigate autonomously, understand its environment, and be able to make decisions and to determine actions by itself for a safe navigation under supervision. Sensors could be added to meet the need for autonomy.
  3. In particular, it should allow MSAS to transit out of harbour, follow a mission pattern in a designated area for a designated period.
  4. It should enable to control the proper functioning of the equipment, systems and facilities on-board, taking the necessary actions to protect them.
  5. Each mission module should consider an unmanned operating mode enabling at least to operate the mission module remotely.

(4)         Secure communications suite

MSAS should include a communications suite in order to allow for secure, real-time, automated two-ways connexion between the control station and both the core platform and on-board mission module, to guarantee as required, the proper governance of the vessel and the execution of the mission.

(5)         ISR module (sensor suit)

  1. MSAS should include a sensor suit equipping the core platform as needed to fulfil an ISR mission. Any other specific mission module could benefit of the outputs of this sensors suite and should complement it as needed.
  2. Information gathered by on-board sensors (e.g., radar, EO/IR47) should be transmitted automatically via secure communications, to the control station. It should be possible to filter sensor information sent from the platform to the control station in accordance with pre-set criteria.
  3. Capable of successful undertaking of surveillance tasks such as patrol and search. Sensors on-board should be capable of all weather, day/night operations in extreme climate and littoral operating environment.
  4. A radar system capable of detecting surface targets with parameters characteristic in coastal areas ranging from Low Observable (LO) to major surface combatant and air targets with parameters ranging from either slow moving or loitering Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) to fast moving stealthy combat air targets, should be considered
  5. Electronic support measures (ESM) should be considered.

(6)         Other specific mission modules

  1. Specific mission modules should be standardised to the maximum extent to reduce specific design requirements related to their integration in the MSAS, and to reduce the time of reconfiguration of the mission profile of the MSAS.
  2. The NMW module should support as a minimum, naval mining operations. The feasibility of supporting naval mine countermeasures (NMC), mine hunting, minesweeping or both, should be evaluated during the study phase, taking into account ongoing dedicated programmes. The option of standoff NMC operations, deployed from the MSAS, should be also explored.
  3. ASuW module should be capable to engage surface targets in such manner that out-of-action effect is achievable against a large defended surface target. The MSAS should become a weapon carrier integrated into a wider C4ISR48 network. The operation of the weapons system should still require a man-in-the-loop for engagement. Engagement of air targets should be limited to self-defence.
  4. ASW module should consist of sensors and effectors to detect, locate, classify, track, and engage as needed, sub-surface targets by using passive and/or active acoustic devices at sufficient range. Innovative acoustic sensors for the detection of submarine and/or incoming torpedoes should be considered. Operation of the weapons system should still require a man-in-the-loop for engagement.

(7)         Cyber security

Considering MSAS heavy reliance on software and connectivity, an improved protection against cyber threats should be considered, in particular as regards:

– Navigation and control systems communicating with shore-based or naval task group networks;

– Control systems monitoring the MSAS condition;

– Secure communication systems, gaining access to ship’s GNC49 or other systems/subsystems via radio, satellite or wireless means, including the data exchange interface with on-board or shore-based control station;

– Machinery and propulsion systems;

– Launching and recovery systems.

Expected impact

– A new affordable medium-sized naval vessel class especially suitable for small and medium sized navies, and for larger navies for specific missions, depending on mission module configuration.

– Mission tailorable open architecture concept to facilitate operational versatility.

– Modular design to facilitate support in congested spaces.

– Unmanned naval operations, in particular ISR, with man-in-the-loop and lean manning when needed, ensuring increased crew protection and 24/7 operational mode.

– Reduced environmental footprint.


EDF-2022-DA-NAVAL-NCS: Naval Collaborative Surveillance

In the context of a changing geopolitical landscape, European Military Forces are facing new and evolving threats that are smaller, faster and more diverse, with increased manoeuvrability, like for instance Ballistic Missiles (BMs), Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCM), and swarmed attacks in a sensor adverse environment (e.g., stealth target, high target mix, environmental clutter, electronic attack).

Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) in the naval domain requires new technological developments to ensure lasting superiority at sea of EU naval surface vessels. Successful engagement to counter new threats can only be done by significantly reducing times as regards detection, tracking, identification and engagement.

EU navies already operate a variety of high-end sensors and weapons controlled by several combat management system, interconnected through Tactical Data Links (TDL) and other communication means, or have these under development. However, communications used nowadays (e.g., TDL 16/22) do not provide the speed, precision, configuration and update rate that enable successful engagements of future threats. Key challenge is to move from these existing capabilities to a naval collaborative surveillance ability in the Above Water Warfare (AWW) domain, based on real-time Plot Level Data Exchange and Fusion (PLDEF), emanating from diverse and heterogeneous platforms (ships or aerial) and relying on adequate and resilient communication means.

This new Naval Cooperative Surveillance (NCS) capability is considered as a first step and the basis for a capability on effector coordination (i.e., Force Threat Evaluation and Weapon Assignment) and Naval Collaborative Engagement (NCE).

The objective is to develop a full NCS capability allowing a better tactical situational awareness shared within a coalition, in terms of performances (e.g., coverage, robustness, accuracy of the information produced) and architecture resilience (e.g., degraded combat system, sensor failure, sensor jammed, loss of telecommunications).

It must consist in particular, in defining an EU NCS protocol/interface standard for real time exchange of raw data originated from sensors (plot level), thus facilitating the AWW operations within a coalition of EU naval and air assets. It must consist, as well, in developing processing functions and algorithms to use the data exchanged through the protocol/interface standard. The NCS will achieve a more effective elaboration of the tactical picture, through plot merging, tracking, identification, etc. Such data processing functions and algorithms could be developed either jointly or nationally. They must take the form of demonstrators and prototypes, which will be verified via demonstrations and testing. Further national implementation and deployment must comply with national legacies and strategies.

Furthermore, it is expected that the NCS has to be used in Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) denied areas. Therefore, the proposed NCS could also include a GNSS-independent mode that ensures successful operation when GNSS is vulnerable or unreliable. This GNSS- independent mode must result in minimal impact on the engageability of the tracks, still allowing for a NCE capability.

The development of the NCS capability (i.e., NCS protocol/interface standard and data processing functions and algorithms) must be incremental. The following three broad levels of capability could be considered:

LEVEL 1: Define the NCS capability for plot exchange

This level 1 must define an EU protocol/interface standard that will allow European units within a naval force to share raw detection data in order to enrich the tactical situation. Each unit must perform its own tracking and fusion within NCS through national software modules. In this level also the GNSS-independent mode could be investigated, developed and tested.

This definition of the protocol/interface standard must be validated on board within real environments considering fast manoeuvring objects. Potential improvements will feedback the protocol/interface standard definition after such trials.

LEVEL 2: Extend to air assets and develop advanced NCS functions for situational awareness

This level 2 must extend the capability and the already defined protocol/interface standard to include air platforms with their own sensors, including unmanned platforms.

At this level, advanced functions and processing to set-up a better and unambiguous tactical situation, including identification and prevention of duplication of targets must be developed. New algorithms to select and prioritize plot dissemination within the network, to avoid data saturation of the network, must be defined and tested.

Coalition units might also operate TDL while embarking the new NCS capability. The coexistence of the tracks originated by the TDL network and the tracks originated by the new NCS capability, and the collaboration required between both for sharing common tactical situation awareness, must be studied.

Further national implementations and deployments should comply with national legacies and strategies.

LEVEL 3: Full advanced NCS capability

To improve the tactical situational awareness shared within the coalition, additional functions for the NCS capability must allow to:

Handle unit(s) when entering/exiting the coalition network and other required network management functionalities.

Prepare, and continuously update in real-time, the surveillance mission by planning operational unit(s) locations and movements, as well as task operational unit(s) while in operations within the coalition network.

Include some level of sensor management, for example, to select the best combination of sensors available in the coalition for a given timeline per a given cell of the surveillance space with the aim to optimize the quality of the tactical situation awareness and minimize communications workload.

A preliminary NCE capability, also known as Multi-Platform Engagement Capability (MPEC) that goes beyond the above-described concepts must be considered. Studies and first analysis on Launch-On-Remote and Engage-On-Remote, could be proposed as a follow-up paving the way to a European NCE capability.

The following tasks must be performed as part of the mandatory activities of the project:

  • Studies:
    • The evolutions of the EU protocol/interface standard required for each of the foreseen NCS capability levels 1, 2 and 3.
    • Inventory of the available and planned communication and network capacities and constraints which could be used in a coalition, with a view to propose the most appropriate architecture and interface definition, considering the evolution of communication capabilities over the next decade and with a view to identify potential new needs:
      • Data exchange needs must be characterized in terms of synchronization among participating units, time budget for data transfer, transmission rate, latency, discretion, range, confidentiality and resiliency.
      • The communication operation architecture and preliminary solutions must be identified based on considering different coalition deployment, threat and interoperability scenarios requirements. They must consider FMN (Federating Mission Networking) spirals and integration impact.

NB: Available and planned communication and network capability must be considered as an input to this project, which should focus on how to use currently available communication and network solutions in an optimal way. Thus, the design of new communication and network capabilities is out of the scope of this topic.

    • Additional, studies activities could focus on NCE functional analysis and preliminary engineering (pre-feasibility).
  • Design:
    • Generic NCS architecture for levels of capability 1, 2 and 3
    • Common Data Model for levels of capability 1, 2 and 3
    • EU NCS protocol/interface standard for the exchange of surveillance data (e.g., plot, strobe) originated by radar, infrared search and tracking system, radar ESM (Electronic Support Measures), between sensors interconnected through appropriate communication means and network.
    • Processing functions and algorithms of the exchanged data, which could be developed either jointly or nationally; in order to optimise the sharing of data while maintaining the highest level of tactical situation quality and tracking.

NB: the topic also comprises the design of NCS protocol/interface standard and processing functions and algorithms related to the optimal use of available and planned communication and network capability. Such designs could be implemented either in NCS specific equipment (e.g., CMS – Combat Management System) or in network specific equipment (e.g., network management system). In the last case, the topic could be limited to the production of requirement documents or extended to actual implementation.

  • Prototyping:

Equipment (hardware and software) implementing the required NCS protocol/interface standard, data processing functions and algorithms, and interfaces to be used as a model to test performance in a realistic operational environment.

  • Testing:

Based on realistic operational scenarios, tests in real environments must consist of operating the prototype on-shore and at-sea. Trials with land platforms under synchronised simulated scenarios must be used extensively too, aiming to decrease costs and simulate future scenarios, which are difficult or impossible to implement at sea. While testing at sea, onshore or on platforms, each equipment (prototype) must create its own tactical situational awareness, and record the information products for further analysis. After testing completion, outcomes and feedback must be analysed to propose protocol changes when justified. Testing should involve a large number of actors (ships and air assets) from different Member States and associated countries, and take provisions for interoperability with NATO allies.

Functional requirements

The aim of the proposal should be to develop to an EU NCS for real time sharing of sensor data on plot level, showing the following main functional abilities:

– Develop a European NCS capability providing a dynamic and real-time sharing and fusion of heterogeneous raw data from naval and airborne sensors assets (potentially enhanced with land-based sensor information).

– Develop advanced management functions to achieve NCS and NCE, such as data transmission optimization, optimal positioning of naval assets, and dynamic management of multiple sensors.

– Optimize the overall NCS capability performance and resilience against advanced, evolving advanced threat set, like BMs, swarming, hypersonic targets or jamming.

– Prepare steps for further European collaborative Force Level capabilities including NCE.

The proposed NCS should support collaborative naval operations against modern threats and should be adaptable towards future threat evolutions.

The concept of operations for coordination of naval operations and provide naval support to joint and combined operations should be based on operational doctrines and systems of both Member States and associated countries, and strategic partners.

The architecture based on standards should be a non-intrusive and open for all Member States and associated countries.

The proposed solution should reuse previous works in this area as executed by contributing partners, in particular for demonstration and testing purposes.

Interoperability with allies, especially in the context of NATO, is a key priority, in relationship with the US Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC). Furthermore, cooperation with the Maritime Theatre Missile Defence (MTMD) Forum should be sought where feasible. However, the proposal has to allow for growing on its own pace without any dependency on NATO, US or MTMD.

Expected impact

– A major steppingstone towards enhancing the strength of EU Naval Forces, contributing to European Strategic Autonomy and enhancing surface naval manoeuvrability and superiority.

– Significant reduction of the detection, recognition, identification and engagement times of combined defence while facing new and evolving air threats (e.g., smaller, faster and more diverse, and with increased manoeuvrability).

– Standardization to improve interoperability, and operational cooperation in coalition allowing assets utilization optimization, both leading to superiority of naval systems operated by EU navies in the AWW.

– Contribution to increase the industrial cooperation and integration of the EU defence companies including SMEs and mid-caps.