The Herne XLAUV concept is built around a broad set of capabilities BAE Systems is developing and has already demonstrated in other products, Andrew Carr, the company’s Head of Engineering and Technology for the underwater domain, told Naval News in an interview at the show.
“We’ve looked at the underwater battlespace and the opportunities and emerging threats … and saw a gap around this size of platform, so this is a concept demonstrator to showcase the abilities and innovation that BAE Systems has,”.
Andrew Carr, Head of Engineering and Technology for the underwater domain at BAE Systems
Carr highlighted BAE Systems’ work in autonomy, electric propulsion technologies, sensor fits, and torpedo systems. “So, it’s a ‘wrap-around’ to build and integrate a design for what we think will meet a global marketplace.”
XLAUV’s overall concept of operations includes worldwide deployment, transportability, deployment onboard a ‘host’ platform, long endurance, and capacity to operate at depths out to the edge of the continental shelf, Carr explained.
Primary operational tasks focus on surveillance, reconnaissance, and tracking missions, particularly in circumstances where an uncrewed vehicle may be preferred over a crewed vessel. XLAUV is designed “more around covert ops, being stealthy, and being able to stay on station for a good amount of time,” said Carr. Here, he noted, XLAUV might offer a smaller, more covert presence compared to a submarine, for example.
Given that crewed platforms also might be required for other missions, “XLAUVs can be more disparate, working in a networked way, with multiple platforms in the water,” Carr added.
The XLAUV design concept, and its payloads and mission capabilities, have the flexibility to be adapted to meet customer requirements, Carr explained. “[Herne] is tailorable and adaptable to look at the types of missions and opportunities those customers might want to achieve,” he said. “If a customer wants further endurance or greater payload, we can adapt the design in a quite straightforward way.”
“It’s really about adaptability. It’s not a fixed design. It’s a capability we can offer customers, building on our experience to tailor to their needs,” Carr added.
Payloads XLAUV could carry include a lightweight towed array sonar, masts, and uncrewed vehicles designed to conduct mine-countermeasures tasks. XLAUV could also deploy, and function as a waystation for, uncrewed vehicles conducting seabed operations.
BAE Systems views XLAUV as a platform for the future. “We’ve got a preliminary design. We understand all the key features. We understand how we would go about building it and accepting it. We have a build strategy,” Carr explained. “We’ve got the design to a point where we would relatively swiftly be able to build and integrate the product within a few years.”
For the next steps in XLAUV’s development, Carr said, “At the moment, we’re looking at the critical path activities, to ensure we understand the build in more detail, and to ensure we continue to look at the opportunities and the customer use cases to help us refine the concept.” “We’re concentrating on autonomy,” he added. “The autonomous solution is the key to this product.”