The underwater threat is becoming a major issue for the navies in the near future. The XLUUV Demonstrator is a project that federates technological developments. One of the main challenges is controlled decision-making autonomy, which will be at the heart of the drone capabilities.
According to Cyril Levy, Head of UxV & MCM Business Line at Naval Group, development of the vessel started in 2016. Its construction debuted in 2018. Naval Group’s XLUUV was launched in secret in Southern France in November 2020. The UUV has a length of 10 meters (which can be scalled up to 25 meters by placing additional batteries or propulsion systems such as an AIP). Its current displacement is 10 tons.
Answering a question by Naval News, Pierre Eric Pomellet, Naval Group’s CEO said:
“The demonstrator really came out of Naval Group’s research laboratories to put together technologies and demonstrate the interest of a system such as this one to complement a naval force. So we’re unveiling it today, but obviously a lot of government and research players know what we’ve done, and we’re going to discuss with them how we can follow up on this type of technology and demonstration. This project is part of the self-investment that Naval Group is making to go beyond the simple technology.”
The demonstrator is designed primarily as a platform to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) mission. However its design features an underbelly mission bay. Cyril Levy confirmed to Naval News that future missions may include mine counter measure (MCM) or anti-submarine warfare (ASW) as the company’s F21 heavy weight torpedo (HWT) can fit in this weapons bay.
Naval Group is convinced that certain operational missions can be carried out by large-scale underwater surveillance drones. In anticipation of this, the company has launched a full-scale technology demonstrator project to design, qualify and validate the technological building blocks. It will make it possible to to evaluate technologies and operational concepts in order to specify by iteration the underwater combat systems of tomorrow some of whose characteristics are still unknown.
This demonstrator will allow to orientate technological options and to develop more quickly to develop new innovative capabilities.
According to the shipbuilder, the XLUUV project has four main objectives:
- Evaluate new technologies and operational concepts to iteratively specify the future underwater warfare systems of tomorrow
- Accelerate the process of development, acquisition and upgrades in short cycle increments.
- Hosting onboard intelligence systems to test the controlled decision-making autonomy of such a drone. Without a communication link, the drone must be able to carry out its missions and to deal with unforeseen events on its own. These systems located inside of the drone represent the on-board decision-making autonomy.
- Strengthen the confidence and acceptability by the sailors of this controlled decision-making autonomy.