Navy, Electric Boat Test Tube-Launched Underwater Vehicle

ULRMGroton, Conn. — The Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat are testing a prototype of a system that would allow the launch and recovery of unmanned underwater vehicles and other payloads  from the missile tube of a cruise missile submarine.

Called the Universal Launch and Recovery Module, the system houses, launches and recovers an underwater vehicle, a Lockheed-built 10,000-pound prototype vehicle called Marlin, from the submarine’s missile tube.

The system is showing promise in early testing and is slated to go sea aboard a guided missile, nuclear powered submarine (SSGN) next year, Electric Boat officials said.

“This is real prototyping to actually go and exercise the system before we put it on an SSGN and take it to sea,” Adm. David Johnson, Program Executive Officer, Submarines, said at the 2013 Naval Submarine League Annual Symposium, Va., in October.

ULRM2The system is designed for a range of potential underwater missions to include counter-mine patrol, sonar or other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.

“Submarines have the ability to get really close to something. That is a big advantage,” said Franz Edson, director, mission systems & business development, General Dynamics Electric Boat.

The prototype vehicle is hooked up to temporary hydraulics and engineered to acquire a buoy at the top of the missile tube using a transponder, said Edson.

“It comes out of a tube, rotates, and then deploys. It goes off and does its thing — mine warfare, ISR, etc. –Then it comes back and it mates with that buoy before it is brought back down into the tube,” Edson said.

Once a tactical version of the technology is built, it will fill up the launch tube out to 60-inches in diameter and stretch as long as 23-feet, Edson said. The vehicle could weigh up to 30,000-pounds, he added.

The prototype vehicle is controlled by two laptop computers, removing the need to adjust the infrastructure of the submarine in order to accommodate the system, Edson explained.

“It is a gigantic elevator that will take up to 30,000 pounds and raise it from inside the ship to outside the ship. We’re not modifying the submarine’s infrastructure to control this,” Edson said.

In addition to being configured to swim from an SSGN, the system is also being configured by Electric Boat and the Navy to work from the Virginia Payload Modules of Virginia-Class attack submarines to begin construction by 2019, Edson said.

Virginia Payload Modules, or VPM, consist of an effort to increase the missile firing capability of Virginia-Class submarines from 12 to 40 vertically fired missiles.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior and a former associate editor at

22 Comments on "Navy, Electric Boat Test Tube-Launched Underwater Vehicle"

  1. China claim entire S. sea…soon we will have to paid the fee and we cannot move freely aorund the S sea, this is why we need 30 or more this kind of Sub…China have a few hundre of Sub can continue to build more and more….

  2. Perhaps this development means that the Virginia extend-the-hull to make room for more cruise missiles (and a contingent of SoF's) program isn't dead yet. The Ohio SSGN variants will be retired before very long, and if we want to retain this capability the development/procurement work will have to get moving soon.

    The POTUS included a pile of dough in his proposed defense budget for that program, but all the money was removed by the House Of Representatives.

  3. Hmm. Deploy minisubs from tubes for commando delivery, ASubW, AShipW?

    They would make an interesting defense for SSBNs: If being tailed, deploy a small SSK for protection.

  4. A big ROV could perform lots of classified tasks. A very interesting project if you've read Blindman's Bluff.

  5. Other uses for:
    shoreline Recon
    ID SEAL Team for pickup
    ID wreckage
    scan for lost weapons ( 1966 Palomares Spain H Bomb event).

  6. Kind of a cute little robot LOL.

  7. Why do we announce this kind of stuff? Wouldn't want to have an unfair advantage?

  8. I looked at the picture and thought, "Oh, sh**, it is an underwater Little Boy!"

  9. I want a percentage. The NSA has obviously been peeking while I've been typing my novel!

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  11. The navy squeals how it doesnt have enough SSBNs for nuclear deterrent but hey if you need one to insert a seal team or clear some mines or some other marginal mission there are plenty.

  12. Navy is working on a system to tail every foreign sub in the ocean. Once that is achieved we might have a chance to actually win a nuclear war or prevent one. Scrap the surface vessels and give me 20 subs per carrier and a couple of Littorals for coastal patrols.

  13. It looks impressive but can it help us win the war on women? They are rascally devils.

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