US Navy plans to deploy unmanned submarines plagued by delays and cost overruns: report

At a time when China is rapidly advancing its naval capabilities, including anti-submarine drones, delays and cost overruns continue to plague the Navy’s plans to deploy the Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV), according to a U.S. Government Accountability statement Office (GAO) published report ) has found.

The US Navy has attempted to quickly deploy five XLUUVs in its fleet to take on dangerous tasks like laying underwater mines. However, its effort faces a budget overrun of at least $242 million, or 64 percent over its original cost estimate, and a delay of at least three years, according to the US GAO report released Wednesday.

According to the report, the project’s original cost was $379 million, which has now increased to $621 million, with $504 million already spent.

In May, the US Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command unveiled its first-ever Orca XLUUV, built by Boeing as part of a project to produce five such vehicles. Based on Boeing’s 51-foot Echo Voyager, the Orca is designed for offensive missions including mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare and offensive missions.

According to the GAO report, Boeing originally planned to deliver the first vehicle in December 2020 and all five vehicles by the end of 2022. However, the dates have now been revised and all five submarine drones are not scheduled to be delivered until between February and June 2024.

Noting that the XLUUV is a research and development effort, the GAO report blames the Navy for failing to develop a “sound business case including cost and schedule estimates” to ensure the vehicles can be delivered to the fleet quickly .

The Navy’s strategic plans indicate that XLUUVs are likely to play a key role in the future fleet; Therefore, although the robotic submarines are a prototype that is in the early stages of development, the submarine drones are seen as crucial in fulfilling an emerging need.

Given that the Navy is looking at these robotic submarines as a way to address an urgent need, it is Department of Defense (DOD) policy to ensure that a solution is deployed within a two-year timeframe.

However, the Navy did not require that the contractor could demonstrate that they were willing to build the submarines within planned cost and schedule, so seven years later the Navy still has no submarines that meet their requirements , according to the GAO result.

The report indicates that without more complete cost and schedule estimates, the Navy will not have the information it needs to make decisions and will therefore continue to experience cost overruns and schedule delays as it builds the XLUUV.

Meanwhile, as previously reported, China may be preparing to deploy its own massive new unmanned submarines with a satellite image showing two extra large unmanned underwater vehicles (XLUUV) at the Sanya Naval Base, also known as the Yulin Naval Base, in Sanya on Hainan Island is China’s strategically important naval base in the contested South China Sea. US Navy plans to deploy unmanned submarines plagued by delays and cost overruns: report

Fry Electronics Team

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