The Navy awarded Boeing a $43-million contract to build four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) that will become multi-mission for the service, according to a Pentagon contract announcement. For more information see the IDTechEx report on Mobile Robots and Drones in Material Handling and Logistics.
Boeing based its winning Orca XLUUV design on its Echo Voyager unmanned diesel-electric submersible. The 51-foot-long submersible is launched from a pier and can operate autonomously while sailing up to 6,500 nautical miles without being connected to a manned mother ship, according to the Navy. 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.
"We are pleased with the Navy's decision to award Boeing a contract to build and deliver four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles, and are committed to providing this important autonomous undersea capability to meet the Navy's unique mission needs," the company said in a Thursday statement to USNI News following an earlier version of this post.
The Navy also considered the Lockheed Martin Autonomous Underwater Vehicle system. In October 2017, both companies received design phase awards - $43.2 million to Lockheed Martin, $42.3 million to Boeing.
Meanwhile, the Navy is also exploring the possible use of Large Diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (LDUUVs) as another rapid acquisition program. The LDUUV would be a vehicle launched from either a Virginia-class fast attack submarine or from a surface ship. LDUUVs could perform similar missions as the XLUUV, however, the LDUUV would need to remain relatively close to the mother ship instead of operating autonomously like the XLUUV.
Source and top image: United States Naval Institute