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Coast Guard and Navy commands formalize support for Research and Development Center autonomous vessels


Signing of a memorandum

Capt. Daniel Keane, commanding officer, Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC); hosted (from left) Capt. Kenneth M. Curtin Jr., commanding officer, Naval Submarine Base New London; Cmdr. David Sigler, officer in charge, Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron Eight Detachment Groton; and Cmdr. Drew Nilsson, commanding officer, Naval Reserve Center New London, Jan. 18, 2023, at RDC to formalize support for the RDC’s experimental autonomous vessels through signing of a memorandum of understanding. U.S Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Maxwell Higgins.

The Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with several U.S. Navy commands based in Southeastern Connecticut Jan. 18 to formalize support for experimental autonomous vessels operated by the RDC.

The MOU solidifies the cooperation among the commands to provide for the temporary storage and maintenance of RDC’s three optionally manned/unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) at the Naval Submarine Base. The USVs are the leading edge of the RDC’s autonomy research and encompass experimentation in areas from vessel control systems to new sensors, navigation systems and state-of-the-art communications capabilities. They are employed in joint Department of Homeland Security/Department of Defense research and in partnerships with the private sector.

Capt. Daniel Keane, RDC commanding officer, hosted Capt. Kenneth M. Curtin Jr., commanding officer, Naval Submarine Base New London (SUBASE); Cmdr. Drew Nilsson, commanding officer, Navy Reserve Center New London; and Cmdr. David Sigler, officer in charge, Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron (MSRON) Eight Detachment Groton, in the signing of the MOU. Navy Region Mid-Atlantic and Navy Reserve Expeditionary Maintenance Detachment New London are also parties to the MOU.

Keane called the MOU a “force multiplier.”

“This is a great opportunity for our commands to work together to share knowledge, resources and talent to further understanding of autonomous vessel operations, support and logistics,” Keane said.

The MOU also fills a vital need.

“The RDC does not have the organic capabilities to fully manage the maintenance and repair aspect of this boat program,” said Lt. Dean Gilbert, the RDC’s lead for vessel maintenance with the Navy. “Partnering with the Navy fills critical gaps in the program, helps in the training of reserve sailor technicians and ensures work is being done in facilities compliant with all Coast Guard, Navy and state requirements.”

For the sailors from SUBASE Port Operations, the MSRON and the Reserve Expeditionary Maintenance Detachment, the support opportunity has multiple benefits.

“This cooperative effort not only provides our Navy sailors with valuable training opportunities to sharpen their skills and maintain mission readiness across several platforms, but also to work with fellow sea service professionals in the Coast Guard,” Nilsson said.

“Additionally, it exposes them to experimental, cutting-edge systems and technologies that may be the standard in the future,” Sigler said.

Local Navy and Coast Guard leaders recognized such beneficial outcomes from the start.

“The signing of an MOU with these Navy commands, all in collaboration and focused on autonomy, is an operationalization of the tri-services strategy,” said Dr. Joe DiRenzo, the RDC’s director of research partnerships, referring to the joint Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard focus on modernization, mission efficacy and leveraging each service’s complementary capabilities towards the nation’s strategic priorities.

The MOU exemplifies a forging of the Coast Guard commandant’s tenet to “Sharpen our Competitive Edge” with the chief of naval operations’ initiative to “Get Real, Get Better,” highlighted Curtin.

“The Coast Guard and the Navy in Southeastern Connecticut have a long history of cooperation and support,” Curtin said. “This joint collaboration reflects the execution of senior service strategies at the deck-plate level. Our local Navy and Coast Guard are demonstrating our commitment to constant improvement, maximizing resources, and training, learning and adapting as a collective team to meet current and future challenges. It’s a win for us all.”

With the MOU signed, RDC autonomous vessel storage at SUBASE is anticipated by the end of January, with maintenance efforts to begin soon after.

For more information: Research, Development, Test & Evaluation and Innovation Program page and Research and Development Center page