Thales will test its passive, omnidirectional sonar system designed to be mounted onto the hull of an extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicle (XL-UUV).

As part of the French Defence Procurement Agency’s (DGA) Uncrewed Combat Underwater Vehicle (UCUV) programme, the prime contractor, Naval Group, has contracted Thales to test the sonar on its demonstrator.

The sonar will contain a cylindrical panoramic array and an internal unit housing the operating software. Working together, the array and operating system will provide an accurate, detailed picture of the ocean surface environment to ensure that the underwater vehicle can ascend and surface safely.

Thales will assist with integration of the sonar solution on the XL-UUV demonstrator.

France’s UCUV programme

Naval Group began work on the UCUV programme in May 2023, and after nine months the company was able to examine use cases and principal architectures for a combat XL-UUV concept.

At the end of 2023, DGA offered Naval Group a framework agreement for the design, production and testing of UCUV demonstrator. A first follow-on contract was also signed for the design and development of Naval Group’s Autonomous Decision-Making Process (ADMP) and secure autonomous navigation.

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The logic of the ADMP being designed is intended to be capable of functioning in an environment where communication are ‘limited and sometimes impossible or unwanted,” the company stipulated.

Thales sonar system

Thales sonar is a key component of the XL-UUV’s acoustic detection system.

“Its autonomous detection, classification and location capabiltiies will rely on high-performance signal processing, data and analytics and artificial intelligence functionalities,” said Marc Delorme, Thales lead for the UCUV project.

These new technologies and tactical capabilities are due to deliver an effective operational response to meet the needs of underwater warfare and new forms of naval combat.

According to GlobalData intelligence, the global military uncrewed maritime vehicles market, valued at $1.7bn in 2024 is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.9% over the forecast period. It is expected to reach $4.1bn by 2034 and cumulatively value $29.3bn over the forecast period.