The Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) being built by Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd for the Royal Navy will be based on the company’s S201 manned submersible.
It was announced earlier today that MSubs was awarded an initial £1 million contract to build an extra-large autonomous test submarine that will be used to explore the potential capabilities of larger uncrewed underwater vehicles in the future. The contract was awarded by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord announced the contract at the Underwater Defence & Security Symposium in Southampton. The First Sea Lord noted how the Ministry of Defence wants to increase its presence in the underwater battlespace and is exploring the use of XLUUV for surveillance, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations.
Measuring about 30m in length, this extra-large autonomous submarine is significantly larger than autonomous submarines used for beach reconnaissance, allowing it to operate at a range of 3000 nautical miles.
XLUUV submarines are especially adept at covert intelligence gathering. They can leave their dock autonomously and secretly move to the operational area without any embarked crew for up to three months. They are also able to sense hostile targets and report their findings back to the station, making them an important barrier for anti-submarine warfare. Currently, smaller autonomous and remotely piloted submarines are unable to undertake all the tasks of larger crewed submarines.
The first phase of DASA’s Developing the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Underwater Capability programme – run jointly with the Royal Navy and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) – will see an existing crewed submersible (MSubs’ S201) refitted with autonomous control systems.
If initial testing is successful, up to a further £1.5 million is available to further test the new capability – making it the largest joint contract awarded as part of a DASA competition.