France’s Director General of Armaments (DGA) signed a framework agreement for an Uncrewed Combat Underwater Vehicle (UCUV) demonstrator, awarding the contract to Naval-Group so as to capitalise on “the historical know-how of the industrialist in terms of armed submarines”, according to a release from the France’s Ministry of Defence on 30 January 2024. 

The logic of the Autonomous Decision Making Processes (ADMP) being designed is intended to be capable of functioning in an environment where communication are ‘limited and sometimes impossible or unwanted,” according to a release from Naval-Group on the announcement of the UCUV demonstrator development. 

The initial work on the UCUV demonstrator, outlined in the first contract within the framework, will focus on this ADMP as well as navigation systems for the drone. This contract in the framework will run for 24 months, with additional subsequent contracts to cover the launch and operational evaluation of a high-endurance demonstrator that will be longer than 10m and weigh more than 10 tons. 

Naval Group stated that the “ADMP guarantees compliance with the human operator’s orders in terms of mission objectives, rules of behaviour and degrees of freedom left to the autonomous system.”

Within the overall framework, other follow-up contracts are planned to enhance the endurance of the UCUV, as well as contracts for underwater detection, and sub-order implementation. 

France first began this initiative in May 2023, when a contract to study the main use cases and systems architecture for UCUVs was awarded to Naval-Group. The aim was to evaluate particular technologies for their capacity to operate in likely scenarios with which the French Navy may be presented. 

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For this study Naval-Group leveraged its knowledge in constructing Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (XL-UUV) demonstrators over the last ten years, according to Aurore Neuschwander, Naval Group’s director of drones, autonomous systems and underwater weapons.

Naval Group have said that the XL-UUV demonstrator has been a key component of the UCUV project so far, and will continue to play a part in enabling short cycle evaluation of technologies, highlighting the technical choices around energy and autonomous decision making that are linked to the design of the design of the UCUV.