A south Louisiana-based shipbuilder has been selected to develop and implement the autonomous naval defense system for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Metal Shark, based in Franklin, was chosen for the Long Range Unmanned Surface Vessel System, which will usher in a new technology that will feature unmanned vessels traveling extensively and transporting loitering munitions to address targets on sea and land, according to a company announcement Monday.
This tiered, scalable weapons system will be able to track and destroy targets at range throughout the battle space. The vessels will have the option of being manned and will carry multiple payloads, which will be capable of autonomously launching and retrieving.
“The LRUSV program represents a significant milestone for autonomous technology, for the defense world and for the entire shipbuilding industry,” Metal Shark CEO Chris Allard said. “We are thrilled to be integrating advanced autonomy and command and control capability into these highly specialized surface vessels to provide the Marine Corps with a next-generation system.”
Metal Shark has enlisted autonomous technology developer Spatial Integrated Systems, recently acquired by Huntington Ingalls Industries, to provide the autonomy solutions. SIS specializes in multi-vessel collaborative “swarming” autonomous capabilities, sensor fusion and perception.
Under the agreement with the Marines, Metal Shark will design, build, test and implement the vessels and will handle the integration of the autonomy system and an advanced command and control software suite.
The company will also produce manned support vessels for the LRUSV system utilizing its 40 Defiant military patrol craft platform, which it is currently producing to create the Navy’s new patrol boat fleet, 40 PB. It will also provide the Marines with associated program management, system engineering, configuration management, quality assurance, logistical support and the development of technical publications and manuals.
The LRUSV program is the latest success for Metal Shark’s Sharktech Autonomous Vessels division, which launched in 2018 and focuses on unmanned vessel technology.
Metal Shark specializes in the design and construction of welded aluminum and steel vessels up to 300 feet for defense, law enforcement and commercial operators. Customers include all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces, foreign militaries, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, passenger vessel operators and other clients worldwide and employs over 500 at its facilities in Louisiana, Alabama and Croatia.