The US Navy will pay Boeing $43-million to buy four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (Robotic submarine drones or XLUUVs).

Boeing based its winning Orca XLUUV design on its Echo Voyager unmanned diesel-electric submersible. The 51-foot-long sub will launch from a pier and can operate autonomously while sailing up to 6,500 nautical miles without being connected to a manned mother ship. Eventually, the Navy could also use the Orca XLUUV for mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions, according to a Navy outline of the system’s capability development.

The Military Future of AI, Drones and Robotics

It will likely take 10 to 25 years for various kinds of large robotic submarine drones to be proven out. It should not be that difficult for the eventual addition of standard torpedoes and missiles to be added.

China also has artificial intelligence, drone and robotic technical capabilities. This is not an area where the US will be able to develop unchallenged technical dominance.

A mature Robotic drone submarine capability would shift the balance of naval power away from large ships. The trend would be towards the overall quantities of sufficiently deadly single smart weapons.

Robotic drone weapons would bury themselves into the seafloor or on islands and they would deploy in massive smart swarms.

The amount of overall and accumulated manufacturing capacity would be critical to victory.

If AI and technology were improving at a high rate then it would also be important to be able to upgrade AI and robotics at the last minute. This would be an advanced version of Tesla’s over the air software upgrades.

Submarine Launched Robotic Drones

The Navy is also exploring the possible use of Large Diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (LDUUVs) as another rapid acquisition program. The LDUUV would be a vehicle launched from either a Virginia-class fast attack submarine or from a surface ship. LDUUVs could perform similar missions as the XLUUV, however, the LDUUV would need to remain relatively close to the mother ship instead of operating autonomously like the XLUUV.

China’s Robotic Submarine Drones

China is developing large, smart and relatively low-cost unmanned submarines according to scientists involved in artificial intelligence (AI) projects. These robotic submarines are expected to be deployed in the early 2020s.

The AI-powered subs are expected to be vastly larger than existing torpedo sized robotic underwater drones.

Torpedos are about 12 feet (4 meters long). The new robotic drones will be 40 feet (13 meters) to 100 feet (32 meters) long. This will be about the size of PT boats or U-boats in WW2.

Lin Yang, marine technology equipment director at the Shenyang Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences confirmed that China is developing a series of extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles or XLUUVs.

SOURCES- US Navy, Boeing, Lockheed

Written By Brian Wang.