MSubs MASTT 70,000kg Autonomous Unmanned Vehicle: 2010

A complete description of the vehicle can be found here:

Photos and Features

The US Navy perceived a growing threat from small navies armed with small but very capable submarines. In particular the Iranians had developed a small 120 tonne diesel electric boat that carried two full sized heavyweight torpedoes. This has the capability of sinking a US carrier and are very difficult to track. The US Navy, in 2008 had no real program in place to develop equipment to track such a small submarine. Following the success of the S301 project we were invited to bid to build a large unmanned vehicle which would be acoustically similar to a small diesel-electric attack submarine. Our bid was within the very small budget, pocket change for the US military, so was accepted. The entire vehicle was designed and built in around 13 months, which included a purpose-built factory, designed in my spare moments.

I had exactly the right personnel available at the time and due to modular construction techniques and effective project planning it was completed on time. In particular the complex computer controlled electrical system was completely built and tested before the hull arrived.

The main design constraint is that it had to fit in several high cube containers. This put a limit of the diameter of the hull which was split in two sections and loaded into two containers. A third container took the batteries and the conning tower.

Each hull half had an 8-tonne lead acid battery amounting to 500kW hrs. The main propulsion motor was a standard off the shelf 6 pole 3 phase motor running at 950 rpm. A toothed belt drive reduced this to 350 rpm at the prop. Although the mission is run at around 4kn, the top speed recorded was 9.8 kn.

Testing took place at the US navy’s large model test facility in Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho. The navigation was automated and the sub ran a pre-programmed path in 3D, surfacing every now and then to assure the operators that all was well.

This was the final project I ran to completion a MSubs as the MD and Principal Engineer. I am pleased to say that all those I considered key people are now independent contractors and I have had the pleasure of working with them in projects ever since.