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Navy League 2023: US Navy cites progress for XLUUV programme

The first Orca XLUUV prototype was launched by the USN in April 2022. (US Navy)

The proposed US Navy (USN) Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) programme started testing in March 2023 and is moving forward, according to Captain Scot Searles, programme manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems.

“We're starting to pick up speed,” Capt Searles said on 4 April during a briefing at the annual Navy League Sea-Air-Space 2023 conference held in National Harbor, Maryland.

“The Orca is finally in water,” he said. He also cited the new test site groundbreaking at the naval base in Ventura County in California.

He said the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report of the Orca programme was issued on 28 September 2022.

“The XLUUV effort is at least USD242 million or 64% over its original cost estimate and at least three years late,” according to the GAO report.

“The contractor originally planned to deliver the first vehicle by December 2020 and all five vehicles by the end of calendar year 2022,” the GAO said. “The navy and the contractor are in the process of revising the delivery dates. But both expect the contractor to complete and deliver all five vehicles between February and June 2024.”

“There's been a discussion about budget, about schedule. It's the first time we're doing this. It's the first of a kind, it takes a while to work through technological challenges,” Capt Searles said.

“We feel we're at an inflection point. We've got all those technological challenges solved,” he added.

However, the programme is seeing industrial base challenges and supply chain challenges, he said.

The USN is still working towards a first forward deployment in fiscal year (FY) 2026.

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