The UK defense ministry has awarded MSubs Ltd a contract for the development of the first extra-large autonomous test submarine for the Royal Navy.
The initial £1-million contract has been awarded to the Plymouth-based company by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA). The test submarine will be used to explore the potential capabilities of larger uncrewed underwater vehicles in the future.
Measuring about 30 feet in length, this extra-large autonomous submarine will be significantly larger than autonomous submarines used for beach reconnaissance, allowing it to operate at a range of 3000 nautical miles.
Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord announced the contract at the Underwater Defence & Security Symposium in Southampton. The First Sea Lord noted how the defense ministry wants to increase its presence in the underwater battlespace and is exploring the use of extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles (XLUUV) for surveillance, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare operations.
“I am enormously excited about the potential for remotely piloted and autonomous systems to increase our reach and lethality, improve our efficiency and reduce the number of people we have to put in harm’s way,” Admiral Tony Radakin said.
“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.”
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.