Election 2022: Dutton flags robotic undersea warfare capability

By Tom Ravlic

May 5, 2022

Peter Dutton
Running unopposed for party leadership, Peter Dutton. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Australia will have autonomous robotic undersea warfare capability in about four years, following the announcement of a co-funded program designed to boost the country’s naval defence capacity.

Defence minister Peter Dutton said the Department of Defence and Anduril Australia will co-fund the design, development, and manufacture of what is known as Extra Large Autonomous Undersea Vehicles, or XLAUVs.

These underwater vehicles will be built for capability assessment and prototyping.

“XLAUVs are cutting-edge uncrewed robotic vessels. They are a stealthy, multi-role, undersea capability, typically between 10-30 metres long, with the capacity to carry various military payloads over long distances,” Dutton said.

“This capability would potentially complement and enhance the agility and potency of the Navy’s current submarine and surface combatant force in maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Dutton said there is an ambitious timeline to get these vehicles developed and tested.

“Through the co-funded arrangement, the RAN, Defence Science and Technology Group and Anduril will produce three prototype XLAUVs over the next three years, resulting in a manufacture-ready XLAUV. The program will also incorporate Australian small to medium enterprises,” Dutton said.

The unmanned underwater vehicles were not the only announcement made by the minister, with Dutton flagging the first lot of advanced surface-to-air missiles known as the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) have arrived in the country.

Dutton said these missiles, which will be used on the Navy vessels such as the Anzac Class frigates and Hobart Class destroyers, incorporate advanced technologies such as active radar missile seekers.

The missiles, which are a part of the $2 billion investment to boost self-defence, have a range in excess of 50 kilometres.

“This investment will directly support Australian jobs through Defence Industry, supplying components for ESSM Block 2 production internationally,” Dutton said.

“Suppliers to ESSM Block 2 production include BAE Systems Australia, L3 Harris, and G H Varley, with production and supporting roles based in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Newcastle.”

Dutton said the delivery of these missiles is due to Australia’s participation in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

“Australia’s participation in the consortium provides Navy with access to important technical information, strengthens the relationship with NATO and shares the cost associated with developing a very effective capability for defeating anti-ship missiles,” Dutton said.

“As Consortium partners, Defence and Australian industry have completed a significant amount of work to develop the ESSM Block 2 to date.


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