• Morgan Sellars

U.S Navy building new undersea attack drones

The U.S. Navy has leaped forward in the steps of a new development of large underwater drones. These drones are being designed to conduct undersea reconnaissance, share combat essential data with submarine "motherships," search for and destroy mines, and launch attack on enemy vessels.

According to Fox News, "The two new undersea drones, to be configured with advanced sensors and weapons, are called the Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) and the Large Diameter Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV)."

The drones are meant to quickly integrate new technology and payloads as they emerge. This concept could involve newer, upgraded sonar, networking systems, and new weapon and countermine technologies.

Fox News also stated, "On Feb. 13, Boeing was recently awarded a $43 million deal to build 4 Orcas. Boeing's XLUUV Orca is based upon its Echo Voyager undersea drones. The Echo ranger is a 84-foot long, 50-ton massive under water 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, payload capacity up to 34-feet, autonomous buoyancy and Synthetic Aperture Sonar, Boeing data states."

The Navy is now prototyping the LDUUV, and production is slated for 2020 and 2021. It is designed to conduct missions longer than 70 days in the open ocean and littoral seas.

Boeing's XLUUV has a long endurance that is consistent with the LDUUV and can go months without human contact.

The drones strategies, missions, and applications are continuing to evolve. The new undersea crafts are expected to greatly inform tactics, techniques, and procedures for underwater attacks.

Fox News reported, "Initial applications include land-launched drones as a key step toward moving toward undersea launches, Small said. The service is working on both launched and recovered drones; both options involve the important priority with pairing with undersea or surface "mother ships," able to coordinate command and control, receive information and, in some cases, direct mission activity for the drones. The Navy plan is to one day soon have forward positioned undersea drones able to fire weapons."

A forward positioned undersea drone can operate in higher threat areas. The service is now working on ways to refine and evolve many new ways to communicate with the drones, and for now the drones gather information and return to the host ship before transferring data.