XLUUV ordered for UK Royal Navy

Photo: MSubs

Building on the experience the service has gained from trials of the Manta experimental uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV), the UK Royal Navy (RN) recently placed an order for the construction of an extra large uncrewed underwater vehicle (XLUUV).

The Cetus XLUUV will be built by Plymouth, UK-based MSubs, a company focused on the development of advanced, specialised subsea craft.

Cetus will have a length of 12 metres and will displace 17 tonnes. Propulsion will be by electric motor linked to battery packs mounted of the outside of the hull. The design range is in excess of 1,000 nautical miles and the XLUUV will reportedly be capable of diving to a greater depth than any submarine currently in the RN fleet.

A payload bay will fitted at the centre of the craft. Situated between fore and aft pressure vessels, this bay will be fitted to carry mines, small UUVs, and sensors.

An optional additional payload bay can be inserted, increasing the carrying capacity of the XLUUV, as well as allowing the fitting of extra battery packs, thereby increasing its range. Large, hydrodynamically efficient “X” configuration control planes, rather than the more conventional cruciform type, will be fitted.

Cetus is due to enter service by the end of 2024, and it will then be deployed on an intense programme of trials and testing that will include autonomous operation. If the programme is successful, the RN will order the production variant, and its operational roles will likely encompass seabed warfare, force multiplier, in company with manned nuclear-powered attack submarines, and long-range sustained underwater surveillance in support of both RN and multi-national surface action groups.

The XLUUVs are likely to be operated from the mission bays of the RN’s next-generation Type 26, Type 31 and, eventually, Type 32 frigates.

Trevor Hollingsbee

Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police. He is Baird Maritime's resident maritime security expert and columnist.