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Special Report: Australia advances Ghost Shark XL-AUV programme

Date Posted: 04-Jun-2024
Oishee Majumdar, Bangalore

Key points

  • Anduril Australia and the Australian DoD are collaborating to enhance the Ghost Shark XL-AUV's capability to conduct long-range ISR and strike
  • The Ghost Shark programme has achieved objectives ahead of time, with the partnership now focusing on manufacturing processes

The development of unmanned maritime vehicles has become a priority for Australia to support its defence of strategic waters surrounding the country.

The Ghost Shark programme, which aims to develop an extra-large autonomous undersea vehicle (XL-AUV), has been at the forefront of these efforts. The Ghost Shark XL-AUV is jointly developed and funded by a partnership between the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG), and Anduril Australia, a subsidiary of the US defence technology company Anduril Industries.

In a recent interview with Janes , Anduril Australia's CEO David Goodrich and vice-president of programs Andrew Glynn said the Ghost Shark programme is running ahead of schedule, with Anduril now focusing on scaling up the supply chain to build a production system that can swiftly fulfil defence requirements.

“Ghost Shark is a modular, multi-purpose, autonomous submarine that can flexibly respond to the Royal Australian Navy's (RAN's) mission requirements and create an agile force multiplier for the DoD,” Goodrich said.

The Ghost Shark programme is a collaboration to design and develop three Ghost Shark XL-AUV prototypes, including a “manufacture-ready vehicle by mid-2025”. Anduril and the Australian government have each contributed AUD70 million (USD46.5 million) towards this programme, Goodrich added.

While Goodrich declined to comment on the specifications of the Ghost Shark XL-AUV prototypes, due to what he said was the classified nature of the information, he said Ghost Shark will enable the RAN to conduct operations with stealth.

The first prototype of Australia's Ghost Shark XL-AUV was unveiled in April 2024. (Commonwealth of Australia)

Prototype plan

In April, Anduril and the DoD unveiled the first prototype of the Ghost Shark. During this event, Chief of the RAN Vice Admiral Mark Hammond said, “[Australia is] a nation girt by sea, and the Ghost Shark is one of the tools we are developing for the navy to patrol and protect our oceans and our connection to the world.”

Australian Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy, who was also present at the event, said Ghost Shark will be capable of conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike. “[Ghost Shark] has the ability to be fitted with weapons to deter potential aggressors,” he added.

Conroy also said Ghost Shark will be able to conduct these operations “thousands of kilometres away from the Australian continent, potentially”.

Goodrich said that as the development of Ghost Shark is ahead of schedule, this has enabled the partners to add “more capability to the programme than was envisioned when we signed the contract [in 2022]”.

The partnership endeavours to advance the capabilities of Ghost Shark with the development of each prototype, Glynn told Janes .

“It is a continuous learning environment. As each prototype is developed, we [the partners] will collaboratively test and evaluate it and then adopt changes as need be to continue to enhance the capability,” Glynn said.

“In keeping with the overall Anduril company philosophy of being a software-first company, a lot of the approaches that we take into a major programme like the Ghost Shark are based on some of those software principles. And so Anduril Australia has pursued agile engineering development across the whole [Ghost Shark] programme,” Glynn added.