The unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) research and development efforts under diverse partnerships have transitioned into procurement/manufacture programmes.

Listed below are the key macroeconomic trends impacting the UUV theme, as identified by GlobalData.

Common procurement and research and development (R&D) cost-sharing

Sharing platforms and systems’ development costs are expected to expand as a trend, as new technologies require considerable investments. Initiating common procurement between countries can reduce the acquisition and life-cycle costs, given the limited funding in relation to the range of needs.

The Defence Ministers from 13 NATO Allies, for example, signed a declaration of intent to cooperate on the introduction of Maritime Unmanned Systems on 03 October 2018. The countries aimed to create better, more flexible and more interoperable unmanned, maritime vehicles and systems. France joined this initiative on 11 April 2019.

Furthermore, the Belgian and Dutch navies will replace their aging fleets of Tripartite-class vessels from 2023. The Belgium Naval & Robotics consortium will supply 12 vessels and associated equipment to the Belgian and Dutch Navies, under the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) programme. The vessels will be equipped with 15 inspector 125 unmanned surface vehicles (USV), 20 A18-M autonomous underwater vehicles, 14 SEASCAN, 42 K-STER C remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and ten UMS Skeldar V-200 UAVs. All these drones can be operated autonomously from the USV Inspector 125. The drone system also includes unmanned aerial vehicles and influence sweeps.

Similarly, the UK and France have been collaborating to enhance their MCM capabilities. OCCAR awarded the Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) contract to Thales in collaboration with BAE Systems and their partners in France (ECA) and the UK (ASV, Wood & Douglas, Saab) on behalf of the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) in France and the UK MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation.

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Thales and BAE Systems are committed to providing systems to both the French Navy and Royal Navy for two years of evaluation testing, as part of the MMCM programme. French and UK contractors involved in the MMCM system include ASV for the supply of the surface vehicle, ECA for the supply of the unmanned underwater vehicles, Saab for the ROVs and Wood & Douglas for communications.

Company partnership

Unmanned maritime vehicle manufacturer companies partner with other companies on hull, payload and control systems. Israel-based company Elbit Systems’ ISTAR Division and Italian firm Leonardo, for example, partnered to develop an additional torpedo capability for the Seagull unmanned surface vessel. The Seagull boat is also designed and manufactured by Dutch companies De Haas Maassluis BV (builder) and Ginton Naval Architects BV (designer). Sea partnered with iXblue to develop an autonomous anti-submarine surveillance system, SeaDrix, for long-endurance surveillance patrols.

Maritime Tactical Systems (MARTAC) and MSUBS established an alliance on unmanned underwater and surface vehicles in September 2020, bringing together unmanned technologies skills to enhance their markets and support costumers.

Economic risk

Trade war policies have a significant impact on global and national economies as they are used as a political weapon between countries. Such policies feed a downward spiral of measures and countermeasures between opponents, which are not only limited to economic levers but can expand to other areas of international relations resulting in an escalation due to misperception. Companies are dependent on imports, such as semiconductors, rare earth minerals, and battery technology used in UUVs. The scarcity of these materials can paralyse companies and navies and impact the costs of UUVs.

This is an edited extract from the Unmanned Underwater Vehicles – Thematic Research report produced by GlobalData Thematic Research.