The competition seeks proposals to develop an autonomous version of an existing large underwater vehicle for the Royal Navy.
According to the competition notice, the system will be procured to address the Royal Navy’s need to understand the utility and operational boundaries of an autonomously operating unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) system.
The Royal Navy say that contract will have two stages, a 1 year long research, design and re-fit stage and a testing and trialing stage. In the latter stage it is expected that the system will be tested in representative environments for extended periods; the sea trials in Stage 2 may be up to 2 years long.
“Broadly, Stage 1 consists of the research and innovation to support autonomous system development including fitting to an existing vehicle and a short seaworthy / autonomy test; and Stage 2 consists of more in-depth testing to understand the future utility and concept of operations. Some minor refit/adaptation will be permitted between tests in Stage 2 but the system is expected to be adaptable in order to reduce down-time.
The MoD does not propose to own this test system at the end of the contract, but reserves the right to undertake further work and procurement through the framework agreement.
In particular we are looking for a flexible UUV capable of hosting different payloads / sensors which will be utilised in a range of testing scenarios. This range of tests will determine capability limits of a UUV, to assist in the development of future requirements and the design of future capabilities.”
According to the notice, by the conclusion of Stage 2 the system should be able to:
- operate independently for a minimum of 3 months
- operate at significant range from the position of deployment (e.g. up to 3000 nautical miles)
- carry, deliver and recover test payloads of >2m3 and 2 metric tonnes
- provide flexible, accurate and timely covert intelligence gathering capability
- provide an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) barrier capability
The following is a breakdown of the above scenarios, directly from the notice.
Covert intelligence gathering
In this scenario, an XLUUV is tasked to gather covert intelligence of traffic transiting in a maritime operational area. The XLUUV leaves its dock and autonomously, and covertly, transits underwater to the maritime operational area. It positions in the operational area either at or below periscope depth, and monitors traffic for up to 3 months; above water electronic, underwater acoustic and optical intelligence gathering using a range of sensors. It may position on the sea floor and release a tethered sensor to periscope depth that would then be recovered before returning to periscope depth. During this period a reportable incident occurs, in this case the passing of a vessel of interest, whereby the XLUUV reports the incident to control and continues monitoring.
Anti-submarine warfare barriers
In this scenario, an XLUUV is tasked with enacting an anti-submarine barrier in a particular location. The XLUUV leaves its dock in the harbour and autonomously, and covertly, transits underwater to the checkpoint. Upon reaching th
e checkpoint, the XLUUV proceeds to patrol a pre-determined area for up to 3 months. During this period it encounters (recognises the acoustic signature of) a target of interest, and identifies it as hostile. Upon identification, it covertly reports the incident to control, before returning to station and continuing the patrol. Alternatively, upon reporting the incident to control, the XLUUV could be re-tasked.
Deploy & Recover
In this scenario an XLUUV is tasked with covertly deploying a sensor payload to the seabed and recovering it at a later date. The XLUUV leaves harbour and autonomously, and covertly, transits to just outside the operational area, rising to periscope depth to await signal. A ‘go code’ is transmitted from control; the XLUUV dives to operation depth and transits to operational area before dropping the payload on the seabed. The XLUUV exits the operational area, rises to periscope depth, and transmits a ‘complete code’ before autonomously, and covertly, returning to harbour or holding area. At a later date, an XLUUV is tasked with covertly recovering the sensor payload from the seabed.
The total funding available for this competition is £1m for Stage 1 (research and development of an autonomous control system and re-fit of an existing manned submersible to implement this innovative autonomy); and a further £1.5m for Stage 2 (rent and testing of the novel autonomous functions of the submersible at a manufacturer-proposed operating base for up to 2 years).
The competition closes at midday (BST) on 11 June 2019.