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£2.5m investment in XL autonomous submarine development

The first extra-large autonomous test submarine will be developed for the Royal Navy following a new contract by the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).

An initial £1 million contract has been awarded to Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd to build a test submarine that will be used to explore the potential capabilities of larger uncrewed underwater vehicles in the future.

Measuring about 30m in length, this extra-large autonomous submarine is significantly larger than autonomous submarines used for beach reconnaissance, allowing it to operate at a range of 3000 nautical miles.

Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord announced the contract at the Underwater Defence & Security Symposium in Southampton. The First Sea Lord noted how the Ministry of Defence wants to increase its presence in the underwater battlespace and is exploring the use of extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles (XLUUV) for surveillance, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare operations.

Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord said:

I am enormously excited about the potential for remotely piloted and autonomous systems to increase our reach and lethality, improve our efficiency and reduce the number of people we have to put in harm’s way.

These XLUUVs are at the forefront of underwater systems technology; UK technological developments such as this will be key to the Royal Navy maintaining its battle-winning edge in the underwater environment.

XLUUV submarines are especially adept at covert intelligence gathering. They can leave their dock autonomously and secretly move to the operational area without any embarked crew for up to three months. They are also able to sense hostile targets and report their findings back to the station, making them an important barrier for anti-submarine warfare.