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
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.