This Photo Is Dangerous: It Could Be the Future of Navy Submarines
The construction strategy for the Orca and other drones is to engineer a new “upgradeable,” multi-mission drone able to quickly integrate new technology and payloads as they emerge. This technical platform could, in key instances, obviate the need for the Navy to build new undersea drones in the future. The concept, when it comes to application, could involve newer, upgraded sonar, networking systems, new weapons and countermine technologies.
(This first appeared last month.)
The Navy is planning to launch a massive, 50-ton undersea drone to expand mission scope, increase attack options, integrate large high-tech sensors, further safeguard manned combat crews and possibly fire torpedoes -- all while waging war under the ocean surface.
The 50-ton Orca, which would not fit in a submarine launch tube, brings an unprecedented sensing, endurance and attack advantage. The Navy has finished its Critical Design Review of the Orca, called an Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle.and begun construction, Capt. Pete Small, Program Manager for Unmanned Systems, Naval Sea Systems Command, said in early May at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space symposium.
Earlier this year, Boeing was awarded a $43 million deal to build four Orcas. Boeing's XLUUV Orca is based upon its Echo Voyager and Echo Ranger undersea drones. The Echo Ranger is an 84-foot long, massive underwater 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, senor carrying capacity of up to 34-feet, autonomous buoyancy and Synthetic Aperture Sonar, Boeing data states.
Initial applications for the Orca include land-launched operations as a key step toward surface and undersea launches, Small said. The 50-ton Orca is too large to be launched from a submarine or ship in most instances, at the moment. For now, the drone is primarily launched from a land dock The larger Orca drone fits into the Navy’s broad priority of pairing undersea drones with surface “mother ships” able to coordinate command and control, receive information and, in some cases, direct mission activity for the drones.