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Making it big: Asia-Pacific's increasing focus on large and extra-large UUVs

This graphic shows some of the LUUVs and XLUUVs under various stages of development in the Asia-Pacific. (Janes)

Navies in the Asia-Pacific are increasingly deploying unmanned systems to overcome the challenge of limited resources in personnel. Technological advancement in digitisation and artificial intelligence (AI) has supported such efforts. This has led to the emergence of new concepts of operations (CONOPs) such as fully unmanned mine countermeasures (MCM) formations.

The growing military competition in the Asia-Pacific, the militarisation of certain regions such as the South China Sea, and operational challenges associated with underwater warfare are some of the factors contributing to defence forces' increased focus on naval unmanned systems such as unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

A spokesperson for South Korea's Hanwha Systems, which is developing an anti-submarine warfare unmanned underwater vehicle (ASWUUV) for the Republic of Korea (RoK) Armed Forces, told Janes in late September that the company expects “the need for unmanned marine systems” to keep increasing and related markets to keep growing, given “escalating tensions” in the Asia-Pacific.

UUVs are ideal to perform underwater tasks that may be too dull, demanding, and dangerous for humans.

Large unmanned underwater vehicles (LUUVs) and extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles (XLUUVs) “can support a very attractive set of operational missions that can be achieved at a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional crewed underwater capability”, Tom Loveard, chief technology officer of C2 Robotics told Janes in October. C2 Robotics is developing the Speartooth LUUV for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

In addition to having greater capacity to “support longer range, endurance, and payloads”, LUUVs and XLUUVs can “complement and enhance the current submarine and surface fleet, taking on roles that would be challenging or risky for such larger, high-capability assets to perform”, Loveard said.

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