Improved Propulsion Technologies for Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Systems
Navy SBIR 2019.2 - Topic N192-114
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: May 31, 2019 - Closes: July 1, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Improved Propulsion Technologies for Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Systems


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground/Sea Vehicles


ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Maritime Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (MEMUUV) Systems


The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop improved Mine Countermeasures (MCM) propulsion technologies for small and medium size Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) systems as defined in the Secretary of the Navy Report to Congress on Autonomous Undersea Vehicle Requirements for 2025 [Ref 1].


DESCRIPTION: The design of propulsors and control surfaces inherent in UUVs supporting MCM missions remains formative in contrast with propulsion for larger naval platforms, offering significant opportunity for improvement to meet operational needs. To date, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) propulsion and control subsystems adapted for UUVs for MCM applications have focused on maintaining near neutral buoyancy and minimal change in trim during relatively low speed sorties (3 to 5 knots) in order to optimize pre-programmed search operations for the integrated side scan sonar sensor suites that are integral to small and medium size cylindrical shaped UUVs.


As the Navy Expeditionary MCM (ExMCM) UUV capability and capacity grow, future alternative platform form factors (not solely torpedo shaped) will likely be revisited. In the interim however, a family of small and medium class, cylindrical UUVs will remain in use as the baseline capability for globally dispersed MCM exercises and operations. As the Navy continues to operate UUV systems in an increasingly diverse range of operational environments, the need to introduce product improvements and technology refresh solutions for baseline UUV systems is growing. One area of increasing Navy interest and demand is in improving UUV propulsion and control subsystem performance. Two areas of improvement involve: (a) adding a higher “sprint speed” capability (up to 8 knots) for faster ingress/egress transits of up to 10 nautical miles to pre-planned search areas, while maintaining near neutral buoyancy and minimal change in trim during transit. Higher sprint speed is needed to enable more robust UUV maneuver and control during search in the objective areas in higher current and ocean surge environments that are common in the near shore areas and choke points; (b) operating in depths ranging from 5 feet of sea water (fsw) down to 1000 fsw; and   (c) reducing, by 20% or higher, acoustic and magnetic noise levels associated with actuators and propulsors on small and medium size COTS UUVs to improve minefield survivability.


Although engineering solutions exist for simply increasing the speed of a small or medium-sized UUV and reducing noise levels associated with its components, the technical challenges associated with introducing these capability improvements into the compartmental constraints of the UUVs, which include: ensuring endurance thresholds of 8 hours for small UUVs and 12 hours for medium sized UUVs are not compromised; ensuring new propulsion subsystems continue to operate at slower speeds that are more optimum for MCM sensors; and integrating with other UUV subsystems without interference.


The Phase II effort will likely require secure access, and NAVSEA will process the DD254 to support the contractor for personnel and facility certification for secure access. The Phase I effort will not require access to classified information. If need be, data of the same level of complexity as secured data will be provided to support Phase I work.


Work produced in Phase II will likely become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been be implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DSS and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.


PHASE I: Design a concept for a propulsion system that meets the requirements in the Description. Demonstrate the feasibility by modeling and simulation. Develop a Phase II plan. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.


PHASE II: Develop a prototype propulsion system and validate it with respect to the objectives stated in the Description. Plan and conduct a requirements analysis session with the Navy technical team to further refine threshold goals for sprint speed and MCM speed, endurance and UUV interface requirements for a prototype propulsion system, and to secondarily discuss performance tradeoffs associated with reducing magnetic and acoustic

influence signature of the improved propulsion system for small and medium-sized UUVs. Refine the demonstration prototype of an improved propulsion system with a designated small or medium sized Government Furnished Equipment and Information (GFE/GFI) UUV asset.


It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use. Work with the Navy to gain additional detail on the designated UUV system that ultimately would be used for integrating the improved propulsion system, and then support the Navy testing and evaluation team for introduction of the propulsion system as a potential product improvement to the operational UUV systems. Options for development and production of propulsion subsystems for other Navy UUVs may be included in a Phase III effort. Several commercial companies produce UUVs for U.S. and allied military applications including mine countermeasures, port protection, underwater unexploded ordnance remediation, and naval oceanographic mapping missions.

Additionally, the propulsion system could be adapted to small and medium-sized UUVs used for underwater inspection and surveillance tasks by the gas and oil industry, fisheries, scientific research communities, and commercial diving and salvage industries.



1.     The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, Report to Congress – Autonomous Undersea Vehicle Requirements for 2025. Autonomous-Undersea-Vehicle-Requirement-for-2025.pdf#viewer.action=download


2.   Brown M., et al. “Improving Propeller Efficiency Through Tip Loading.” 30th Symposium on Naval Hydrodynamics, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 2-7 November 2014.


3.   Gaggero S., et al. “Design and analysis of a new generation of CLT propellers.” Applied Ocean Research, 2016, 59: 424–450.


KEYWORDS: Unmanned Undersea Vehicle; UUV; Mine Countermeasures; MCM; Expeditionary Mine Countermeasures; ExMCM; Original Equipment Manufacturer; OEM; Propulsion in UUVs; Magnetic and Acoustic Influence Signature of UUVs; “Sprint Speed” Capability of UUVs



Robert Simmons






Jimmie Hamilton






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