US Navy Tests Submarine Launched Drones While Industry Continues Designing

Foreign Affairs

Arlington: Even as efforts are on to formally acquire unmanned underwater vehicles from submarines, the US Navy continues experimenting with launching and recovering these vehicles.

The Program Executive Office – Unmanned and Small Combatants is pursuing the project, which is meant to create a common drone that can conduct expeditionary mine countermeasures or operate from submarines.

Capt Kevin Smith, who leads the office, said this week at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium that the program is moving through the critical design review process and that industry partners Leidos and L3Harris Technologies had built a demonstration vehicle with their own research and development dollars to help accelerate the platform’s development.

The medium UUV is set to field within the next several years, but the Navy is already practicing with similar systems available from industry to learn how to use them.

The Navy’s initial Razorback effort, the version of the medium UUV that operates from submarines, resulted in a system that had to be launched and recovered from a special operations dry deck shelter, meaning its operations were labour intensive and only a limited number of submarines in the fleet could support them.

The current medium UUV program adds a torpedo tube launch and recovery capability, allowing any submarine in the fleet to become a drone mothership.