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By William Palmer

WEST BETHESDA—The autonomous mobile periscope system, or AMPS, is an unmanned underwater vehicle developed by Carderock Division engineers. The vehicle is 26.5 feet long and 2 feet in diameter and weighs 3,600 pounds. Recently, this platform was upgraded to expand the vehicle capability to include a visual and radar target, as well as an underwater acoustic target. AMPS provides anti-submarine warfare (ASW) units with a live target they can track, avoiding the expense of fielding a real submarine for ASW training exercises.

John Johnston (5300), having recently taken the role as lead engineer, says the project forms the basis for another channel of collaboration, not only between Division departments, but with the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, RI. “With the new product area structure, we were recently involved with the Weapons and Vehicle Product Area at NUWC,” said Johnston. “This product area is responsible for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV), and this is an area where we plan to develop synergy between labs. We have the technology developed here through the AMPS program that we can apply to their UUV projects in the area of hull, mechanical and electrical.” The West Bethesda team includes Code 5300’s Rich Knutson, Steve Ebner, and Hung Vo, performing various tasks, from initial vehicle design to current in-service engineering support.

Although exact points of collaboration have not been decided yet, it is generally thought that a program should be created which extends the AMPS vehicle to more of a support structure for ASW training and RDT&E exercises, not just at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), Kauai, HI, current owner of the AMPS hardware, but to other ranges and training facilities as well.

The improvements to the vehicle include several electronics upgrades and the addition of a target acoustic system, which enables AMPS to broadcast sounds associated with an operating submarine, improving the realism of the training target presented to ASW units. The acoustic target was requested, says Johnston, “because the ASW crews use sonobuoys to locate and track a submarine’s position. By installing these upgrades, they will have not only the training using visual detection and surface radars, but also using the sonobuoys and other acoustic systems. So the AMPS can present a more realistic target by raising its periscope close to the surface for a few minutes, giving the ASW crew the opportunity to look for the vehicle with radar, and then submerging, giving them the acoustic perspective.” Johnston added that several iterations of that sort of exercise could be accomplished, simulating submarine activity in a littoral area.

By November 2001, acceptance testing had been accomplished, and the vehicle was received by the PMRF. Division personnel then trained members of ITT, a contractor company used by the facility, who subsequently operates and maintains AMPS. After the acceptance, PMRF asked to have the upgrade work done on the vehicle. “The first thing we did was to improve the design of the electronics by streamlining the wiring and the placement of equipment,” Johnston. “We did this to improve the serviceability, making maintenance of the unit much easier. The maintenance technicians can more easily find troubleshooting checkpoints, trace wiring, and replace defective components and sensors. Components also were rearranged and shielded to minimize any electromagnetic interference. We also built an additional set of electronics, so in the event of a problem onboard, the entire electronics set can be replaced with the spare set, minimizing AMPS downtime. While AMPS is still online, the technicians can repair the electronic problem offline.” The new electronics were constructed under a contract with EG&G and tested for operational compliance at West Bethesda in Code 5300’s electronics lab space.

The second upgrade to the vehicle incorporates a target acoustic subsystem from the expendable mobile acoustic training target (EMATT Mk 39 Mod 0), which generates tonals, echo repeat signals received from active sonar generation, and serves as a transponder for signals received. EMATT was developed by Sippican for NUWC, and the Mod 0 assembly on AMPS will be replaced with Mod 2 in the 3rd quarter of FY 04. The Mod 2 unit will provide more programmable acoustic signal generation capabilities, including broadband and transient signals.

The future holds a few more upgrades for AMPS, such as increasing its speed and the depth to which it can dive. Also, an underwater command and control circuit is planned. Johnston says these changes are once again geared to improving the vehicle’s capabilities as a training platform. “The additional upgrades relate to improving the performance for the ASW crews to train against,” he says. “Because of the addition of the acoustic capabilities, PMRF would like to run the vehicle at deeper depths, so they can simulate how a submarine might really operate in the ocean environment. Over the past few months, we have increased the depth limit from 50 to 75 feet; however, deeper operating depths are desired.” Another future upgrade being considered is the use of fuel cells to replace the current 24-volt NiCad batteries, although Johnston says this is not a near-term upgrade. He’s looking forward to implementing the upgrades, and not just to improve performance. “That’s one thing we have been trying to do with the AMPS vehicle in general,” he says. “You can look at it not just as a target, but it’s also a technology system, where you’ve got the capability to provide other areas of UUV technology investigation.”

Posted by yw at April 19, 2004 12:53 PM

The original article is used with permission by Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, and is taken from Wavelengths Online

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