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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform

Cable-controlled Undersea Recovery Vehicle (CURV)


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The vehicle pictured at left was the first successful remotely operated undersea vehicle. The Cable-controlled Undersea Recovery Vehicle (CURV) was developed in the early 1960's by the former Pasadena Annex of the Naval Ordnance Test Station, one of SSC San Diego's parent laboratories. CURV was designed to recover test ordnance lost off San Clemente Island at depths as great as 2000 feet, but became famous in 1966 with the recovery of an H-bomb off Spain in 2800 feet of water. This sucesss spawned later generations of vehicles designated CURV II, CURV II-B, CURV II-C and CURV III. CURV, now referred to as CURV I, pioneered the concept of undersea teleoperators.


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In 1973 CURV III was used to rescue the two-man crew of the submersible Pisces III which was bottomed off Ireland. After the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, CURV III was transferred to the Navy's Supervisor of Salvage (SUPSAL), who directed that it be upgraded from 10,000 feet operations to 20,000 feet using technology developed for the Remote Unmanned Work System (RUWS) and the Advanced Tethered Vehicle (ATV). The redesign and upgrade, performed by Eastport International, produced what is essentially a new CURV III. CURV III continues to be operated by SUPSAL, as does the SSC San Diego-developed Advanced Unmanned Search System (AUSS).

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Thursday, November 25, 1999 1:01:31 PM