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Boeing to build autonomous super submarines

18/02/2019
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The U.S. Navy has awarded Boeing a $43 million contract to build four of its giant Orca Extra Large Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) which will be used to hunt and lay mines, undertake reconnaissance, conduct stand-off strikes and more…
Boeing has released a preliminary illustration of what their new Orca autonomous submarine could look like.
(Boeing has released a preliminary illustration of what their new Orca autonomous submarine could look like. Image via Boeing).

The four Orca subs will be able to autonomously prowl the world’s oceans for months at a time, thanks to a fuel module providing a range of 6,500 nm (7,480 mi / 12,038 km). At 51-ft the Orca subs are of a considerable size, meaning they will be able to handle a variety of blue water environments.
The four Orca submarines commissioned by the U.S. Navy will be largely based on Boeing's Echo Voyager subs.
(The four Orca submarines commissioned by the U.S. Navy will be largely based on Boeing’s Echo Voyager subs. Image via Boeing).

Based largely on Boeing’s Echo Voyager autonomous sub, the Orca will have an open-architecture and modular construction that includes a payload bay 34ft long with a volume of 2,000 cubic ft. Being modular, will ensure that the Orca can be easily upgraded in future as technological advances progress in the still nascent field of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). In a tweet on 15th February 2019, Boeing said it would be partnering with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls to progress the Orca subs.
The Orca will feature a diesel-electric hybrid engine similar to the one fitted to Boeing's Echo Voyager, meaning it can stay at sea for months at a time.
(The Orca will feature a diesel-electric hybrid engine similar to the one fitted to Boeing’s Echo Voyager, meaning it can stay at sea for months at a time. Image via Boeing).

According to early details, the Orca requires no other ship to launch, recover, or support it due to its autonomous guidance and control, navigation, situational awareness, core communications, power distribution, propulsion and manoeuvring and mission sensor systems. If this turns out to be true, it will be a significant leap forward for the field of UUVs, which to-date have been small, had a limited range and have often needed to be tethered to a host vessel. 
The use of a modular design will ensure that the Orca can be easily updated and upgraded in the future.
(The use of a modular design will ensure that the Orca can be easily updated and upgraded in the future. Image via Boeing).

The capabilities of the Orca open up a whole host of different military capabilities which could not be completed either by a traditional manned sub, or any of the UUVs we’ve witnessed to date.

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Tags: Engineering
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Boeing to build autonomous super submarines - Time to read 3 min
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