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Naval Group selects Thales hull-mounted sonar for testing on board XLUUV demonstrator

Thales' passive omnidirectional hull-mounted sonar will be tested on Naval Group's XLUUV demonstrator, which is being used as a trials platform for the French Navy's UCUV programme. (Naval Group)

French shipbuilder Naval Group has selected a passive, omnidirectional hull-mounted sonar developed by Thales for testing on board its extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle (XLUUV) demonstrator.

The contract, announced by Thales on 9 July, forms part of the French Directorate General of Armament's (DGA's) project to develop an unmanned combat underwater vehicle (UCUV) demonstrator for testing purposes.

As part of the contract, Thales will also assist Naval Group with integrating the sonar on board the demonstrator.

Naval Group was awarded a framework agreement by the DGA in December 2023 to design, produce, and test a 10 m-long UCUV prototype. The agreement followed a nine-month study contract awarded to Naval Group in May 2023, under which the shipbuilder examined principal use cases and developed system architectures for a UCUV.

The project leverages research and development work already carried out by Naval Group that resulted in the development of an initial XLUUV demonstrator, which it is using as a trials and technology integration platform to help inform the design of the future UCUV demonstrator.

According to Thales, its passive omnidirectional hull-mounted sonar is a key technology building block in helping to ensure the safe autonomous navigation of the XLUUV.

The sonar solution that will be integrated onto Naval Group's demonstrator is composed of two main components – a cylindrical panoramic array and an internal unit that houses the operating software. Together, these will provide a comprehensive picture of the ocean surface environment that enables the UUV to ascend and surface safely, Thales said.

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