Amphibious Combat Vehicle Ramp Interface Modular Buoyant Kit (MBK) for Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)
Navy SBIR 2015.2 - Topic N152-102
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: May 26, 2015 - Closes: June 24, 2015

N152-102        TITLE:  Modular Boat Ramp to Launch and Retrieve Watercraft from Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV)

TECHNOLOGY AREAS:  Ground/Sea Vehicles, Human Systems

ACQUISITION PROGRAM:  PMS 385, Program Office for Strategic and Theater Sealift

OBJECTIVE:  Develop an innovative auxiliary modular boat Launch and Retrieval (L&R) System suitable for fast-tempo launch and retrieval of small boats and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) from the stern of a Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV).

DESCRIPTION:  The JHSV’s boat crane does not have the requisite man loading safety factor needed to allow the boat crew to remain on board during L&R. In order for small boats to debark from the JHSV, they must enter the water using the boat crane without the crew on board, and then the small boat must be positioned alongside the JHSV in a coordinated effort by the crane operator and members of the ship’s crew using tag lines. After the small boat is secured alongside the JHSV, a Jacobs Ladder must be rigged between the JHSV and the small boat in order for the boat crew to climb into the small boat and depart. In order to embark a small boat aboard the JHSV after returning from a mission, the crane operator and members of the ship’s crew using tag lines must again position and secure the small boat alongside the JHSV and rig the Jacobs Ladder so that the boat crew can climb back aboard the JHSV. This operational limitation of not allowing the crane to lift the boat while its crew is aboard creates a safety concern whenever members of the boat crew are transferring between the JHSV and their small boat using a Jacobs Ladder in Sea State 3 or greater. This crane man loading restriction not only creates an operational safety concern but significantly slows down the rate at which small boats can be launched and retrieved from the JHSV. Therefore, approaches that are safer and support higher rates of small boat launch are being sought.

The JHSV has a requirement to rapidly L&R a variety of manned and unmanned watercraft in full Sea State 3 (SS3) conditions with wave height of 3-5 feet (ref #1). The manned and unmanned vehicles include

11 meter Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB), 40 foot High Speed Boats (HSBs), SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDVs), Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), and 40 foot long endurance drones. This watercraft have large length to beam ratios making them susceptible to spinning about the axis formed between the crane’s boom tip and hook caused by motions imposed upon the JHSV from the sea. L&R at this scale is not done commercially and high volume of craft launch at this weight is not done. The Navy has determined that the existing crane installed aboard the JHSV should only be used for moving cargo aboard the JHSV from one place to another and that a different approach needs to be undertaken for watercraft L&R. To that end, this topic seeks to develop an approach for watercraft L&R that does not rely upon using the crane installed aboard the JHSV. An approach involving the development of an auxiliary ramp is being sought because that approach appears to be both safer and capable of providing faster L&R of watercraft. If successful, the Navy will either fund a ship alteration to modify the current stern cargo ramp or fund a ship alteration to develop and install an additional light weight modular boat ramp between the existing crane and the cargo ramp for L&R of watercraft from the JHSV. The operational safety and the rate at which L&R can be performed become much worse as the Sea State increases from SS0 through SS3. The crane installed on board the JHSV for this purpose has not successfully demonstrated L&R of watercraft above Sea State 2. Navy is seeking an innovative new Modular Boat Ramp (MBR) system that could be situated on the stern of the JHSV (ref #2). This system must be able to L&R manned 11 meter RHIBs SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV), or High Speed Boat (HSB) through SS3, (ref #3) allowing the boat crew to remain on board the RHIB during the entire L&R cycle. This system should be readily adaptable for L&R of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) and UUVs in full SS3. The L&R system should be designed so that it can accommodate the launch or retrieval of all small crafts less than or equal to 40 feet in length in less than 15 minutes in SS3. When the system is fully operational, subsequent small crafts should be able to be launched every 10 minutes and retrieved every 20 minutes. The maximum dimensions of the small boats that JHSV shall accommodate and L&R are as follows: a. Length: 12.32 m (40.41 ft.), b. Width: 2.74 m (9.00 ft.), c. Height: 2.72 m (8.92 ft.). The design and fabrication of the system concept must be combatable to an all-aluminum vessel, comply with all applicable safety standards for manned boat operations, be readily stowed aboard the JHSV’s Vehicle Mission Bay (VMB), and be easily transferable from the VMB at a location near the back porch area to facilitate temporary installation of the system near the stern of the JHSV. This effort also requires technologies that facilitate command and control of the system by both ship’s force and the crew aboard the small boat. This L&R system must also provide a manual backup mode of operation permitting at sea capture and release of the small crafts from the JHSV. 

PHASE I:  The Company will develop a concept for a Modular Boat Ramp (MBR) system that meets the requirements described above. The company will conduct feasibility studies, including hydrodynamic assessments of the system, and demonstrate the feasibility of the operational Launch and Retrieval (L&R) system concept via physics-based modeling and simulation. Feasibility studies must show that the MRB is affordable for the Navy; not more than $125K, however, the Navy seeks the most affordable solution capable of meeting the technical requirements. 

PHASE II:  Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), the small business will develop a prototype MBR for evaluation. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability in meeting the performance goals defined in the Phase II SOW and the Navy requirements for the Modular Boat Ramp (MBR). The MBR must be able to safely launch and retrieve both manned and unmanned vehicles in SS3. The MBR must be a modular device capable of L&R times and vehicle size requirements described above in SS3 to ensure the operational tempo of JHSV L&R. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation and testing, modeling, and analysis. The contractor will evaluate results and refine requirements for the L&R system.

PHASE III:  The company will support the Navy in transitioning the MRB system for Navy use aboard

JHSV and similar vessels. The company will develop a full-sized MBR system in accordance with their Phase III SOW for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use.


1.   Francis Beaufort, 1805, Beaufort Sea States, UCLA Marine Science Center, Retrieved 17 Nov 2014.

2.   “JHSV brings unique capabilities to US Naval Forces Southern Command and US 4th Fleet” Austal News Media Release 10/29/14.

3.   “Navy Programs, Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV) Executive Summary” The Office of the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), Accessed 11/19/14.

KEYWORDS:  Modular boat ramp; launch and retrieval in high Sea States; remotely operated launch and retrieval system, launch and retrieval system; Joint High Speed Vessel; launch and retrieval of manned craft; launch and retrieval of unmanned craft

TPOC:  David Liese

Phone:  (202)781-2591



2nd TPOC:  Gabor Karafiath

Phone:  (301)227-7005





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