In an effort to make unmanned subs more affordable, useful and lethal to operate, the U.S. Navy has awarded Boeing a contract worth $274.4 million. The contract requires Boeing to build up to five Orca extra-large unmanned undersea vehicles (XLUUV). Orca is based on the Echo Voyager test bed, a 15.5-meter long sub that can be deployed to execute counter-mining operations, submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and strike missions.

The Sea Voyager fits into the current vision of the Navy that demands UUVs be able to operate from a port, loiter in the designated area, set up communications, deploy payloads and navigate back to base.

Current unmanned undersea vehicles require a support vessel, have reduced operational range and can, therefore, be more expensive to run and maintain.

(Boeing photo)

According to Boeing: “That reliance results in significant size restrictions limiting on-board power availability, precluding incorporation of redundancy for long-term operations, and reducing payload capacity. At the same time, new sensor and system payloads are rapidly being introduced that could expand the UUV mission set.”