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Naval Group to develop Extra large UUV XLUUV for French Navy.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to information published by the French MoD on January 30, 2024, the French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA) has taken a significant step forward in underwater warfare technology. On December 28, 2023, an agreement was formalized with Naval Group to develop a prototype for a large unmanned combat underwater vehicle (UCUV).
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Initial XL-UUV demonstrator. (Picture source: Naval Group)

This project aims to develop various critical technologies essential for the UCUV demonstrator, including energy autonomy and the integration of autonomous sensors and processing capabilities.

The agreement underscores the increasing importance of large unmanned combat submarines (XL-UUV) for potential applications identified by the French Navy and the DGA.

This collaboration builds upon existing R&D efforts that culminated in the development of an initial XL-UUV demonstrator, which Naval Group successfully tested at sea by the end of summer 2023. This prototype is expected to serve as an experimental laboratory for the DGA's various development initiatives.

Initial efforts will focus on enhancing the drone's decision-making autonomy and safe navigation capabilities. The DGA has set a highly ambitious goal to launch and operationally evaluate a large, long-endurance demonstrator, exceeding 10 meters in length and weighing over 10 tons.

The signing of this framework agreement aligns with the French Ministry of the Armed Forces' dedicated efforts in naval drone technology, in line with the Military Programming Law 2024-2030.


In the United States, the US Navy's focus has been on deploying XLUUVs like the Orca for a range of missions, including mine laying, intelligence gathering, electronic warfare, and more.

The Orca, developed by Boeing, is an autonomous, diesel-electric submarine that can operate independently over long distances with a modular payload bay for various missions.

Despite its cutting-edge capabilities, the program has encountered over-budget and scheduling issues. The first Orca prototype, marking a significant milestone in undersea capabilities, began in-water testing in Spring 2023.

The UK Royal Navy is also progressing in this field, with Plymouth-based MSubs developing an XLUUV based on the MANTA design for surveillance, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare operations.

The prototype vehicle is designed to operate at a range of 3000 nautical miles and carry a 2-tonne payload. Furthermore, the Royal Navy awarded MSubs a contract for the Cetus XLUUV, expected to be the largest and most complex unmanned submarine operated by a European navy. This battery-powered, modular vessel will enhance the UK's ability to protect critical infrastructure and monitor sub-sea activity​​.

Other navies, including the PLA Navy and the South Korean Navy, are also procuring XLUUVs for anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasure missions.

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