NAVSEA published the following statement on its Facebook page on 6 May 2022:
The US Navy marked an important milestone in its effort to develop reliable undersea capability with the christening and first in-water test of the Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) Test Asset System April 28, 2022 in Huntington Beach, California. Capt. Scot Searles, program manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406), representatives from the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ship Programs and the Undersea Warfare Division of the Chief of Naval Operations, and Boeing executives marked the occasion. The test asset system is critical in the performance and production of the five operationally relevant prototype Orca XLUUVs. NAVSEA (Photos courtesy of Boeing)
For the record, Boeing won a $43 million contract for the fabrication, test, and delivery of four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) and associated support elements back in February 2019.
According to the U.S. Department of Defense contract award notice, the Orca XLUUV will be an open architecture, reconfigurable Unmanned Undersea Vehicle. The Orca XLUUV will be modular in construction with the core vehicle providing guidance and control, navigation, autonomy, situational awareness, core communications, power distribution, energy and power, propulsion and maneuvering, and mission sensors.
During a briefing held during SNA 2019, CAPT Pete Small, former Program Manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406), showed that the Orca program will focus initially on Concept of Operations (CONOPS) development, payload integration work and mine warfare (MIW). XLUUV future capabilities may include mine countermeasures (MCM), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), electronic warfare (EW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and even strike capabilities.
According to Covert Shores: Orca will keep the US at the forefront of XLUUV technology, although Russia, China and Japan are also working on XLUUV projects. Although no specifications are available, one graphic used by the US Navy to represent an armed future XLUUV is particularly revealing. It shows a craft with generally the same layout as the interim Orca class, with a payload module with bomb-bay like doors along the bottom. The payload bay contains three rows of four heavyweight torpedo tubes angled to fire down through the bomb bay doors. This makes the length of the payload bay about 10 meters, giving an indication of the overall size.