USA Navy Developing an Extra Large Unmanned
Sub Defense giants Boeing and Lockheed Martin
have won contracts to develop a new, large submersible capable of tackling a wide number
of underwater missions. The goal is to develop a technical data package that will result
in one company producing the Orca Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater vehicle.
The Unmanned Underwater vehicle program is designed to create a long haul, long distance
unmanned submarine with the capability to take on a variety of payloads, from sensors
to weapons. In January 2017, Defense News reported that Unmanned Underwater vehicle
would have a payload bay of at least 325 cubic feet.
Unlike most current Unmanned Underwater vehicle, which have to launch from the side of a ship
or submarine, the Orca will have the range to travel from a friendly pier to a conflict
zone, do its business, and return home. It will operate autonomously for weeks or even
months, periodically phoning home to check for new orders. A Navy captain involved with
the Unmanned Underwater vehicle program was quoted by Defense News as assigning a range
of at least 2,000 nautical miles to the unmanned submarine. That’s far enough to go from the
Philippines to Shanghai, or Hong Kong, and back.
The Orca’s size, range and payload ability will give it incredible versatility. An Orca
could, for example, go on mine laying missions, dropping off its deadly payloads hundreds
of miles away and returning for more mines. It could spy on enemy fleets or coastlines,
deploying antennas that allow it to pick up electromagnetic emissions for future analysis.
It could attack enemy surface ships, or even tag team with U.S. Navy submarines to hunt
enemy submarines, playing the bait while the real attack submarine carefully set up an
underwater ambush. The platform’s utility would only be limited by the Navy’s imagination.
According to Sea power magazine, Lockheed Martin and Boeing have been awarded $43.2
million and $42.3 million respectively to come up with their own Unmanned Underwater
vehicle designs. The government will pick one design and the winner will produce five
prototype Orcas and deliver them for testing in 2020.
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