San Diego — Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded Boeing [BA] a $43 million contract modification to build four Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs), according to a contract announcement.

XLUUVs are over 54 inches in diameter and have long endurance and ranges. They may support missions including mine countermeasures; anti-submarine warfare; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

The Navy describes the Orca program as an accelerated acquisition program for a pier-launched vehicle originating as a response to a joint operational need.

The Echo Voyager unmanned undersea vehicle. Photo: Boeing.

Boeing based its winning design on its largest UUV, the Echo Voyager. In 2017 the company announced it and Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] were partnering to support the XLUUV program (Defense Daily, June 8, 2017).

This fixed-price-incentive award covers fabrication, test, and delivery of the four XLUUVs. The announcement characterized the Orca as an open architecture, reconfigurable UUV that “will be modular in construction with the core vehicle providing guidance and control, navigation, autonomy, situational awareness, core communications, power distribution, energy and power, propulsion and maneuvering, and mission sensors.”

The Navy said the XLUUV will have “well-defined interfaces for the potential of implementing cost-effective upgrades in future increments to leverage advances in technology and respond to threat changes” and a modular payload bay.

The announcement noted competition for XLUUV requirements is still in source selection, so the specific contract award amount is considered “source-selection sensitive information” and will not be made public now.

Work will mostly occur in Huntington Beach, Calif.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Waukesha, Wis.; East Auro, N.Y.; and Concord, Mass. It is expected to be finished by June 2020.

In 2017, the Navy awarded two $42 million-$43 million Phase 1 design contracts in September 2017 to competitors Boeing and Lockheed Martin [LMT]. This was Phase I of a competitive two-phase approach (Defense Daily, Sept. 29, 2017).

Following a keynote at the AFCEA West 2019 conference, the Navy’s top acquisition official told reporters Thursday that while Boeing won these first four vessels, the service is still looking at other options for the system going forward.

“We’re continuing to look at that, as to see whether that’s the only solution we want to go to or we want to kind of keep looking at it,” Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts said.

In the first four vessels “Boeing brought the best value to the table when we looked at that as we selected it,” Geurts continued.

However, he underscored “both competitors have lots of interesting and unique features and I think we’re in a pretty good position where we had choices among some really good designs by some hard-working people.”

Navy officials told Defense Daily that the original request for proposals (RFP) intended to award up to five XLUUVs and included options for up to four additional vehicles in Phase 2. Phase 2 includes fabrication of systems designed in Phase 1.

The officials said the Navy is still in source selection for a possible fifth XLUUV, opening the possibility that Lockheed Martin could win the fifth XLUUV and/or some of the four option vehicles.

The Navy previously said it planned to award the original XLUUVS with production set to occur over FY ’20-’22.

A Lockheed Martin spokesperson told Defense Daily that they “look forward to continued conversations with the U.S. Navy customer over their acquisition decision.”

Last July, Howard Berkof, deputy program manager of PMS-406, Unmanned Maritime Systems, within Program Executive Office (PEO) Unmanned and Small Combatants (USC), told Defense Daily the Navy was working on detailed design efforts with both vendors and Phase 2 fabrication selection competition was due to be awarded in the second quarter of FY ’19 (Defense Daily, July 3, 2018).

Navy officials have highlighted the accelerated nature of Orca is meant to demonstrate increased responsiveness and an agile approach to acquisition to get higher end capabilities but while still using full and open competition.

Berkoff said the Orca was a good example of a program the Navy could move quickly on, noting the service awarded the two Phase 1 design contracts less than a year from approval of requirements.

The Navy’s original plan was to down-select to a single winner in phase two to build the first five XLUUVs.

However, in October, Capt. Pete Small, program manager of PMS-406, said the Navy could award the Orca contract to both contractors, if they are both technically feasible (Defense Daily, Oct. 17, 2018).

Navy officials told Defense Daily the XLUUV program is implementing Congressional rapid prototyping authorities to help streamline top-level requirements and the source selection process. It also conducted early and constant collaboration with industry while using full and open competition with the two vendors to increase the industry and supplier base and drive down costs.