L3Harris is the first company to develop and integrate a fully autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can be launched and recovered from a submarine. This is possible through the use of a homing and docking solution.

This ‘Torpedo Tube Launch and Recovery’ (TTLR) system enables the host submarine to remain covert in safe waters while the AUV is launched to perform surveys and missions in areas that the host cannot traverse. The system can return with data to be used for tactical and navigational planning and decision-making, delivering manned-unmanned teaming to a sub-surface fleet.

L3Harris worked closely with the US Navy to demonstrate AUV launch and recovery through a challenging test programme aboard submarines and navy support vessels.

“We were able to accomplish something the navy has been trying to do for years in response to an urgent operational need,” Daryl Slocum, L3Harris’ AUV Technology Director, stated.

TTLR will increase operational effectiveness and allow every nuclear-powered general-purpose attack (SSN-class) submarine to serve as an AUV mothership.

“We basically started with flashlights and a hoop to teach the vehicle to get into a torpedo tube with a very small [error] margin,” Slocum said.  “From the time we started the project… to actually demonstrating [the capability from] a host in January of this year… took nothing short of a phenomenal team effort.”

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US Navy applications for AUV solution

GlobalData expects the global uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) market to be worth $750.5m in 2030, up from $525.1m in 2020. The demand for UUVs is expected to be driven by the autonomous mine countermeasure capability enhancement and distributed fleet structure initiatives undertaken by the US, China, Russia, the UK and France.

The US Navy has multiple procurement programmes, including: Orca XLUUV, Snakehead Large Diameter UUV and Razorback medium-sized UUV. The US is expected to maintain its leading position globally while exhibiting a steady pace of growth in the next decade.