Navy Plans to Accelerate UUVs, Changing Acquisition Strategies

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s report on the annual defense appropriations bill revealed major changes to the acquisition strategies of the large displacement and extra large unmanned undersea vehicle (LDUUV and XLUUV) programs.

The Navy requested $92.6 million in the FY ’19 budget request to start building two Phase I prototype LDUUVs. However, the Senate bill’s report said the Navy later told the committee it plans to revise and accelerate the LDUUV program by removing Phase II from the acquisition strategy and transition the Phase I design to industry five years early.

The Echo Voyager unmanned undersea vehicle. Photo: Boeing.

The Echo Voyager unmanned undersea vehicle. Photo: Boeing.

The lawmakers said they support this change but are concerned the LDUUV’s revised schedule might be unaffordable so they recommended reducing the scope of Phase I and further accelerating the transition of LDUUV to industry.

The bill directs assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition ASN RDA), James Geurts, to provide an updated LDUUV acquisition strategy with the next year (FY 2020) budget request.

Furthermore, they direct the assistant Secretary of the Navy for Financial Management and Comptroller to provide updated cost estimates for LDUUV and to certify full funding in the budget request for the revised acquisition strategy.

The LDUUV is an accelerated acquisition program and is being designed to provide persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) as well as anti-submarine capabilities. It is meant to deploy from ports and platforms like the Littoral Combat Ship and Virginia-class attack submarines.

The Navy is working on the LDUUV as the Snakehead Phase I vehicle. It was finished last September and is currently undergoing a detailed design. The service previously planned to move to a Phase II vehicle with extended ISR and range before eventually shifting to Increment 1 within several years. The Increment 1 Snakehead is expected to include anti-submarine warfare and some anti-surface warfare payloads and capabilities.

Relatedly, the Navy asked for $25 million more than first requested in FY ’19 funding to revise the development of its Orca XLUUV program and associated payloads. XLUUVs are over 54 inches in diameter and have longer ranges and endurance than their smaller LDUUV cousins.

The service previously planned to conduct a competitive selection for Phase II of the program, with the Navy downselecting to one vendor to build the first five XLUUVs. However, after submitting the FY ’19 budget request the “the Navy revised its acquisition strategy and informed the Committee that the Navy now plans to award Phase 2 fabrication contracts to both vendors.”

This change requires $25 million in funding for FY ’19 and further extra funds in FY 2020-23. The committee said the Navy plans to include that extra funding in next year’s president’s budget request.

The Navy opened the door to this change in FY ’19 Navy budget documents that said it planned to conduct a downselect to one vendor or keep both vendors when awarding a fabrication contract for up to five initial XLUUVs.

The committee to the revised acquisition plan “to allow for greater competition” and recommended adding the requested $25 million in funding.

The Navy originally requested $118 million to continue developing the XLUUV. Last September the Navy awarded $42-43 million competitive design contracts to Lockheed Martin [LMT] and Boeing [BA] for Phase I of the program (Defense Daily, Sept. 29, 2017).

The Orca program is a response to a joint operational need from U.S. Pacific Command. While not a program of record, the Navy plans to later transition it into one.

Boeing is working with Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] on the Orca and its bid is influenced by the Echo Voyager UUV while Lockheed Martin’s design is based on its Marlin UUV (Defense Daily, June 8).

Last month the deputy program manger for the Navy’s unmanned maritime systems program office noted industry has taken notice of how quickly the Navy has been developing the Orca (Defense Daily, July 3). Howard Berkof, deputy program manager of PMS-406, said the Orca finished on-schedule preliminary design reviews for both vendors this past March and is executing detailed design efforts with follow-on production planned at the beginning of FY ’19.

Berkof said the Navy would next move to critical design review this October before moving to a Phase II fabrication selection competition, planned for the second quarter of FY ’19. Under the new plan, both companies will win the Phase II award, requiring the extra funding.

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