The Navy's 2007 Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan, approved by the Program Executive Office for Littoral and Mine Warfare (PEO LMW) this past summer, calls for development and fielding of a
family of unmanned surface vehicles (USVs) capable of performing at least seven surface warfare missions while reducing risk to personnel and Navy costs.
The plan aims at defeating the "diverse asymmetric threats" that threaten U.S. maritime forces, which are "not easily recognized and operate in atypical ways." It notes that "unmanned systems have the potential and in some cases the demonstrated ability to reduce risk to manned forces, and provide the force multiplication needed to perform tasks that manned vehicles cannot." Missions envisioned for USVs are mine countermeasures, antisubmarine warfare (ASW), maritime security, surface warfare, special operations forces support, electronic warfare, and maritime interdiction operations.
Four types of vehicles are considered essential: semi-submersible craft, conventional planing hulls, semi-planing hull craft, and hydrofoils, although other types could be defined as USVs.