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.
  • Andy

    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….

    • Greg

      Lol, you say we when you clearly not from here.

      China could not detect a b-52 in their adz. How can the my sense everything in the south china sea

      • John

        … that stealthy 1950’s tech on those BUFFs

    • Freedom of thre seas and keeping the shipping lanes open for commerce is the primary duty of the navy. Let teh Chinese try that…they’ll be harrased by our navy like kadaffi was in the 80’s. They need shipping there to buy their goods, they’d never do it.

      • marsdentar

        Edward keep in mind the joker we have in the white house currently he couldnt harrass a housefly if it came buzzing by

        • A Patriotic Gamer

          He would if it was a consertive house fly

  • PolicyWonk

    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.

    • PolicyWonk

      News Flash!

      According to DoDBuzz, the Virginia Payload Module funding was approved, and will is being designed into the Block V version of these boats. This will up the number of cruise missiles from 12 to 40 by adding a 70 section to the hull, adding a considerable punch to these already impressive boats.

  • blight_

    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.

    • Blight_. I see a Virginia, sitting off the coast and sending this into the shallows looking for those electric and diesel subs. Never know what hit them. Another example, Virginia patrolling at 5 knots with one or two of these things deployed out in front. _

    • Tom Billings

      “Deploy minisubs from tubes for commando delivery, ASubW, AShipW?

      For each of those, but most often for mine hunting. People like to forget that for naval warfare mines sink more ships per dollar spent than anything else. Mines are not glamorous, but an intel report of disguised bottom mines in a strait his task force *must* pass through to do its job is still the best way to give an Admiral ulcers. Add CAPTOR technology to that and you’d get a TF retiring and going the long way around. It should be hoped that these robots can even that balance up a bit.

  • kuzinov

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

    • blight_

      Which reminds me; NR-1 will be missed.

      I wonder if the Navy would keep another one on the books; or if that kind of thing would go to the CIA.

      • kuzinov

        ROV technology makes going to the trouble of putting humans in it not worth it. Bob Ballard noticed it when people were looking at the video screens instead of the portholes when the newer higher definition video technology came around. A 5′ x 23′ space is too small to cram gear and people in and have it do something useful, the same dimensions, minus life support, now we’re talking.

      • JohnnyRanger

        Read somewhere that the USS Jimmy Carter replicates some of those capabilities (cable tapping, etc.)

        • blight_

          So we’re told. More likely than not, Jimmy Carter won’t have wheels and manipulators: that would require a fair amount of rework.

          ROV programs are definitely easier to hide: perhaps the extension is just to hold ROVs?

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

  • Lance

    Kind of a cute little robot LOL.

  • Taylor

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

    • ronaldo

      The cost of keeping it secret costs beaucoup dollars. How much secrecy do you want to pay for ? Speak up…it’s your money.

      Sheesh !

  • ziv

    I looked at the picture and thought, “Oh, sh**, it is an underwater Little Boy!”

  • Anon E. Mouse

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

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  • oblatt2

    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.

    • blight_

      We need to get away from using tubes to deploy payloads. We can’t build extra SSBN’s just to do this and use their tubes to deploy payloads and internal space for TLAMs and commandos. At the moment we have extra Ohios because we are pulling them off of nuke duty; but this is a long term thing we should go away from. Small subs for special missions, not the biggest, oldest SSBN’s we have.

      I wonder how successful a sub with a mini-nuke reactor would be; especially considering NR-1’s vague success in the ’60s. Though…maybe the ’60s were America’s best years; even if the computers sucked.

    • John K

      SSBNs ONLY perform nuclear deterrent missions, and NOTHING else. EVER.

      In the early 2000s our four oldest SSBNs were taken out of service and heavily modified. They no longer carry nuclear weapons, but carry conventional TLAM missiles in large quanties and can carry and deploy large numbers of SEALs.

      There are no plans whatsover to modify any other SSBNs.

  • 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.

  • hibeam

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

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