Submarines: Virginia Has A Baby

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December 7, 2007: The U.S. Navy successfully conducted the first launch and recovery of a UUV (unmanned underwater vehicle) from a submerged submarine. The UUV is the AN/BLQ-11 long-term mine reconnaissance system (LMRS) [PHOTO], which contains sonars that enable it to search for naval mines, or anything else. In effect the LMRS can scout ahead for the SSN, or simply search an area.

The LMRS is about the size of a torpedo, and is launched and recovered via a torpedo tube. It is then recovered via a 60 foot robotic arm. This system worked the first time out, and the process was repeated two days later. The UUV will be used on Los Angeles and Virginian class subs.

The LMRS can operate for 40 hours, and up to 135 (eventually over 200) kilometers from the submarine. Cruising speed is about 7 kilometers an hour, with a top speed of 12 kilometers an hour. It can operate from ten to 200 feet beneath the surface. In addition to GPS, the LMRS has side scan sonar, forward-looking sonar, hunting and docking sonar, acoustic communications and range pingers. The UUV is battery powered and uses a thrust-vectored pumpjet for movement and maneuvering. Previous UUVs were wire (fibre optic cable) controlled, while LMRS can carry out missions by itself. Each LMRS (two UUVs, the recovery arm, and other gear) costs over $100 million. The navy plans to buy about a dozen systems.

 


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