The US Navy is looking to develop robotic submarine drones that can stay at sea for extended periods of time so as to maintain its maritime dominance over the coming decades.
The ‘Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle’ program has now been introduced by the Office of Naval Research to build prototype machines. The project will develop the critical technologies needed to enable UUVs to operate and survive in the littorals for 70+ days. The LDUUV is a pier- launched and recovered UUV (without the need for ship-launch or recovery) with the capability to transit in the open ocean and conduct over-the-horizon missions in littoral waters. This system will enable the extension of Navy platform sensing capability over the horizon and extend its influence. The creation of this UUV is intended to act as a significant force multiplier for the US Navy and will help close Warfighter gaps in a cost-effective manner. Two technology areas have been identified as critical to achieving this goal. These areas are Autonomy and Endurance Technologies.
As per the Navy, the goal is to “…acquire, deliver, and maintain operationally effective Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS) as fully functional and integrated systems for the war fighter, and to direct UMS experimentation and technology maturation to develop future UMS capability.”
Outgoing Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead has been a huge supporter of submarine robots. He said that the Navy wanted Unmanned Underwater Vehicles which could stay out for longer than the current ones. He said that they needed something that can be kept out for weeks, that can move in strong ocean currents, and that can close distances quickly.
Admiral Gary Roughead said that the Office of Naval Research aims to push its underwater drone endurance even further than that and would extend the current capability of these vehicles from tens of hours to operability of the system for weeks to months. They currently are hoping to keep the submarine robots out for 70 days. “I never, ever, want to see a Sailor or a Marine in a fair fight! … We have to get technology to the Fleet faster, “ he said.