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Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) Launch and Recovery, On-Board Handling, and Servicing System


RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): Autonomy

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground / Sea Vehicles

OBJECTIVE: Develop a modular Launch and Recovery system for On-Board Handling and Servicing of Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) that can be used on amphibious platforms.

DESCRIPTION: Current Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) recovery systems are designed for the LCS Classes or Shore based operations, and not easily transferrable to other Ship Classes. The Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) with a length of 85 feet, weight of 180,000 pounds and height and width of 8.5 feet would provide a physical challenge to deploy from any Navy ship. These systems are specially designed to capture an Unmanned Vehicle (up to the Large Diameter size) and bring it onboard an LCS using the Twin Boom Extensible Crane (TBEC) on the Independence Class or Launch Recovery Handling System (LRHS) on the Freedom Class. The TBEC and LRHS are specialized systems with unique design features that are not found on other platforms throughout the fleet. Since the original design for the launch & recovery systems were tailored to the LCS variants, they do not integrate easily on other Ship Classes where conventional launch and recovery procedures are used. Current launch and recovery requirements drive the Navy to develop unique solutions that are not cross compatible with other USVs, UUVs, and XLUUVs. The technology to be developed in this effort will provide NAVSEA with a common launch and recovery capability deployed on LCS, L-class, and Shore-based platforms to launch and recover vehicles in the NAVSEA UxV portfolio. The developed launch and recovery system must not require structural modifications to the ship, must operate in Sea State 3 and the design should not impede stern gate actuation, ballasting, or other critical ship operations. A preferred system would be modular, adaptable and scalable to support smaller future unmanned systems. 

The LPD 17 Class ships mission is to transport troops and equipment for amphibious operations and land them in the assault area by means of embarked Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC), conventional landing craft, or Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV). Each LPD 17 Class ship encompasses more than 22,000 square feet of vehicle storage space and 28,000 cubic feet of cargo storage. Vehicle storage space is provided through a well deck design. The LPD 17 Class well deck is 188 feet long and approximately 50 feet wide at mid well, increasing to 59 feet at the sill, or stern of the ship. Clearance above the well deck is 31 feet. The ship is able to ballast down to flood the well deck with 9 feet of seawater at the sill and 4.5 feet at the forward portion of the well during wet well operations and landing craft maneuvers.

PHASE I: Develop a concept for a modular Launch and Recovery system for On-Board Handling and Servicing of the current Navy XLUUV that can be used on an LPD 17 class of ship. The Navy will provide dimension and movement specifications for both the unmanned system, and the ship locations in which the modular Launch and Recovery system for On-Board Handling and Servicing would reside. Companies will demonstrate feasibility of their designs through modelling and draft concepts of operation. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I efforts and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), develop and deliver a prototype modular Launch and Recovery system for On-Board Handling and Servicing of the Navy XLUUV on the LPD 17 class of ship. This prototype development will involve multiple ship check visits to a LPD 17 Class ship on either the east or west coast of the United States. The prototype will first be evaluated on land at both the company’s facility and the location where the XLUUV is stored to determine the system’s capability in meeting the performance goals defined in Phase II SOW. If the land-based testing is determined to be successful, at-sea testing will be accomplished at the end of the Phase II effort with the XLUUV and the company’s prototype modular Launch and Recovery system for On-Board Handling and Servicing. The at-sea testing will involve the company’s system demonstrating movement of the XLUUV from a stowage location on the vehicle deck to the well deck, and then launching and recovering the XLUUV. One overall prototype can be used for both the land-based and at-sea testing. Validation and qualification of the final company product will be achieved during Phase II. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Upon successful completion of Phase II, the company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use. The company will refine the design of the final modular launch and recovery system that can be used for the XLUUV, but also adapted to other Navy unmanned systems. The company will support the Navy for test and validation in accordance with Navy regulations and requirements. Following testing and validation the end design is expected to first be deployed on the LPD 17 Class, and capable of being utilized across all Navy amphibious platforms with well decks. This technology will help the Navy meet critical needs of increased warfighting capability for L-Class ships and expand the Amphibious Warfare Mission Area(s).


  1. O’Rourke, Ronald. “Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress.” Congressional Research Service. March 30, 2020.  
  2. 2. Mayfield, Mandy. “Navy Seeking New Technology For Unmanned Boats, Subs.” National Defense Magazine. October 18, 2019
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