The Navy last month issued a Request For Information (RFI) seeking industry feedback on developing systems for the Mining Expendable Delivery Unmanned Submarine Asset (MEDUSA) unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) and aims to award a prototyping contract by fiscal year (FY) 2023.

The Navy’s Unmanned Maritime Systems Program Office (PMS 406) is developing the MEDUSA as a “tactical clandestine mining system, with an expendable Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV),” able to be launched from the torpedo tubes of submarines. The MEDUSA includes the medium-class UUV, supporting equipment and payloads.

The Navy first started developing an initial MEDUSA prototype in FY ‘17 and by FY ‘21 had built and tested a prototype vessel using dummy payloads with a land-based launch facility and surface-launched in-water demonstrations. The original MEDUSA prototype used a modified Hydroid Remus UUV. Hydroid has since been acquired by shipbuilder HII [HII].

The RFI, issued April 25, is seeking industry feedback on developing the MEDUSA system with a notional schedule of achieving risk reduction, prototype design, fabrication and test award by the fourth quarter of FY ‘23 and then delivery of four prototype units by the fourth quarter of FY ‘26, the notice said. However, the Navy said RFI responses are expected to influence the schedule, except for the end state of delivery of four prototypes by 2026.

On April 28 the Navy updated the RFI, noting it intends to hold a virtual MEDUSA Industry Day on May 18-19, with individual engagement sessions held in-person or virtually following the virtual presentation.

“The objective of this event is to provide Government information and solicit industry feedback to the proposed MEDUSA program strategy. The MEDUSA Industry Day will provide an overview of the MEDUSA program description and high-level Concept of Operations; the program schedule; the contracting, competition, and business strategies; and the program requirements and objectives,” the Navy said.

Separately, the Navy’s FY ‘23 budget request said lessons learned from the earlier prototyping effort is informing a program start in FY ‘22 leading to a competitive industry award expected in the third quarter of FY ‘23 for the four prototype vessels. 

According to budget documents, the MEDUSA is about 21 inches in diameter, impulse launched from the torpedo tube, and meant to be expendable once all payloads are deployed. The documents differentiated MEDUSA from the 15-inch diameter Razorback Torpedo Tube Launch and Recovery variant because the latter launch from and is recovered via the torpedo tube and is also capable of swappable payloads for various missions. 

The budget request said the Razorback is focused on autonomous ocean sensing and data collection missions for the Navy compared to the MEDUSA that deploys offensive mines.

In FY ‘22, the Navy plans to incorporate technical lessons learned from earlier MEDUSA demonstrations into the program of record documentation, develop top-level requirements, and prepare the competitive Request For Proposals (RFP) with an expected fourth quarter release to industry.

Budget documents said the Navy is seeking $28.6 million in the FY ‘23 budget request for the MEDUSA, a sharp increase from the under $2 million appropriated for FY ‘22, dedicated to the contract award. The Navy plans to award the MEDUSA prototyping fabrication contract and initiate risk reduction and preliminary design in FY ‘23.

The RFI notice said the MEDUSA must conform to the Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture (UMAA). The Navy developed the architecture to enable autonomy commonality and standardization as well as reduce acquisition costs across unmanned surface and undersea vehicles, independent of specific platforms or missions.