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UK XLUUV trials demonstrate towed array sonar deployment

The MSubs S201 XLUUV, pictured at sea. The UK MoD has completed deployment testing of the XLUUV fitted with a KraitArray thin-line towed array sonar. (SEA)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has successfully demonstrated the capability to deploy a thin-line towed array sonar from an extra-large uncrewed undersea vehicle (XLUUV).

The trials, held off Plymouth, UK, in the second quarter of 2022, involved the MSubs 9 m S201 XLUUV and SEA's thin-line towed KraitArray sonar.

In an 18 May statement, SEA said the trials “[have] proven the ability to deploy an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) payload from an autonomous undersea vehicle”. The work followed previous trials activity, in late 2021, during which integration of the vehicle and the towed array was demonstrated, alongside development of an array launch-and-recovery process.

The work is part of a UK Royal Navy (RN) programme assessing the potential contribution of XLUUVs in delivering autonomous underwater battlespace capability. The RN is customer and sponsor for the work, with the MoD's Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) organisation and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) as programme manager and technical partner, respectively.

The programme places broad emphasis on the role of autonomous vehicles in providing additional sensor capability through increased mass, presence, surveillance, and other effects, with a focus on ASW operations.

The KraitArray has previously been fitted to manned and unmanned surface vessels, which augmented SEA's knowledge and experience of deploying ASW capability onto non-ASW platforms. However, this latest trial was the first demonstration of deployment, operation, and recovery from an XLUUV.

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