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US Navy to accelerate the development of its fleet of UUVs.

| 2019

The US Navy, through the past few years, has shown an increasing interest in the development of an unmanned underwater fleet. Among such unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), the Navy has tasked several companies for the designing and the development of two large UUVs, the Orca XLUUV and the LDUUV.

US Navy to accelerate the development of its fleet of UUVs The Boeing-built Echo Voyager on which the design of the XLUUV will be based (Picture source : Boeing)

“These will help consolidate Navy vision to bring UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles) and USVs (Unmanned Surface Vessels) to the fleet, and integrate them with surface vessels and submarines,” Capt. Pete Small, Program Manager for Unmanned Systems, said about those two UUVs during the Surface Navy Association.

These two undersea drones are scheduled to be capable of conducting undersea reconnaissance, sharing data with submarine motherships, searching and destroying mines, and launching attacks on enemy surface and undersea vessels. The Orca will be an Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) while the other UUV (yet to be named) is to be a Large Diameter Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV).

“The Orca XLUUV is a multi-phased, accelerated acquisition program featuring a full and open competition for industry to design, fabricate, test and deliver systems to the Fleet,” said Alan Baribeau, spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command.

Recently, on February 13, Boeing has been awarded a $US 43 million contract to build four Orca XLUUVs for the US Navy. Boeing's XLUUV Orca is based upon its Echo Ranger undersea drone. The Echo Ranger is a 84-feet long, 50-tonne massive underwater drone able to reach depths of 11,000 feet and hit ranges up to 6,500 nautical miles, according to Boeing data. The drone has obstacle avoidance, a payload capacity of up to 34-feet, autonomous buoyancy and Synthetic Aperture Sonar.

Eventually, the Navy could also use the Orca XLUUV for mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions, according to a Navy outline of the system’s capability development.

As for the LDUUV, Small said that “Next year we deliver a prototype (LDUUV) for integration with submarines”. Production of the LDUUV is currently slated for 2020 and 2021. The LDUUV purpose is to conduct missions longer than 70-days in open ocean and littoral seas, being fully autonomous, with a long-endurance, land-launched with advanced sensors for littoral environments.

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