The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has disclosed the award of a Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) contract to MSubs for the test of an extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle (XLUUV).
Valued at GBP1 million (USD1.3 million), the 12-month Stage 1 contract was placed in September 2019 but not announced until early March. Plymouth-based MSubs is recertifying and upgrading its existing S201 manned submersible to serve as the XLUUV testbed.
Managed by the MoD's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the DASA innovation fund provides for the accelerated derisking and demonstration of novel techniques and technologies offering potentially transformational military advantage. DASA's Developing the Royal Navy's Autonomous Underwater Capability programme - run jointly with the RN and Dstl - is intended to enable the service to better understand the future utility of XLUUV vehicles.
Admiral Tony Radakin, Chief of Naval Staff and First Sea Lord, announced the DASA XLUUV contract on 5 March at the Underwater Defence & Security Symposium in Southampton. "I am really excited by the possibilities that this offers to increase our reach and lethality, improve our efficiency, and reduce the number of people we have to put in harm's way," Adm Radakin said.
The 9 m S201 XLUUV, also known by the name Manta, is an 8.9 tonne vehicle originally developed for manned operation. Under Phase 1 of the programme, MSubs will refit S201 with an autonomous control system to enable unmanned operation and perform a short seaworthiness/autonomy test. The vehicle modifications will also facilitate the insertion and test of various technologies and payloads
If initial testing is successful, up to GBP1.5 million Phase 2 funding will be made available to support follow-on test and experimentation activities, lasting up to 24 months, to understand the future utility and concept of operations. It is anticipated that Phase 2 testing will explore the contribution of an XLUUV to anti-submarine warfare barrier operations and to flexible, accurate, and timely covert intelligence gathering.
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