The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is starting a new research project to develop a system to detect magnetic influence mines from unmanned vessels.

On Aug. 10, ONR issued a notice for the Magnetic and Acoustic Generation next Unmanned Superconducting Sweep (MAGNUSS) program.

According to the notice, the proposed Future Naval Capability effort will develop an advanced minesweeping payload technology consisting of a high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnetic source with an advanced acoustic generator that could be used for the Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM-USV). ONR expects to execute this program during fiscal years 2022 to 2024. 

This initial notice aims to focus the attention of the scientific community on the technology area being studied and a planned timetable to submit white papers and full proposals. It focuses on the development, fabrication, integration and demonstration of the MAGNUSS payload on an MCM-USV.

ONR noted this comes as the Navy is transitioning the overall MCM mission from legacy systems to the Littoral Combat Ship MCM mission modules, one of which is the MCM-USV to complete the minesweeping mission. The MCM-USV currently hosts the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), towing a modified Mk-104 system acoustic generator and a magnetic minesweeping cable.

“While the MCM-USV program has been awarded by the [Naval Sea Systems Command] program office, ONR has been developing an advanced closed-loop minesweeping system using an HTS magnet coupled with an acoustic source to generate underwater acoustic energy,” the notice said.

ONR explained the advantage of using the HTS magnet is the ability of the HTS material to run at very high electrical currents with near-zero resistance.

“The high-ampacity of the HTS magnet generates a magnetic dipole moment with suitable performance to effectively sweep magnetic influence mines when coupled to an acoustic generator,” ONR said.

The office also noted there is also a strong Navy desire for a non-towed underwater acoustic source. However, “this is a challenge, so at a minimum, a low-drag alternative to the legacy acoustic generator still enables additional benefits to the non-towed magnetic source.”

ONR said the HTS magnet and acoustic generator has a modularity advantage, allowing it to be deployed on any craft of opportunity, like the MCM-USV.

While the HTS magnet and acoustic generators systems have not been integrated together for deployment on a small craft, “the development of the two systems and integration of those systems with command and control for demonstration aboard the MCM-USV is the focus of this special notice.”

Therefore, ONR is seeking proposals on how to integrate an HTS magnet and non-towed/low-draft underwater acoustic generator as a single payload deplorable aboard the MCM-USV. 

The base contract involves research, design, sub-scale test, and at-sea demonstration for the development of proposed MAGNUSS solutions.

“The main goal of the Base period is to develop a MAGNUSS Advanced Development Model (ADM) Prototype Payload to perform an at-sea demonstration aboard the MCM-USV.”

The prototype should be operational when the MCM-USV is deployed from the host ship, either an LCS or either vessel of opportunity, the notice said.

Base activity will have a period of performance of 36 months and ONR expects to make one to three awards of $12 million to $20 million. During an expected option period, the offeror will provide additional prototypes to the government for additional testing.

ONR said it does not plan to hold any industry days, webinars or workshops in support of the announcement and white papers are due by Sept. 17. The review of white papers is planned to be completed by Oct. 8.