Anduril bets it can build 3 large autonomous subs for Aussies in 3 years

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Anduril bets it can build 3 large autonomous subs for Aussies in 3 years

The sub will be both an important source of intelligence and targeting information and may have torpedo tubes and boast other weapons, but those details are still being hammered out.​


Anduril UUV.jpeg

Artist rendering of an Anduril UUV (Anduril)
SYDNEY: A few days before Australia’s premier naval conference begins, American company that specializes in artificial intelligence and autonomy announced a $100 million deal for the Royal Australian Navy to buy three prototypes of large autonomous submarines, raising the prospect of drone wolf packs sailing the Pacific and South China Sea.
The vessels designed byAnduril and the RAN “would also give the Australian Defence Force innovative mission options while presenting a disruptive and difficult undersea problem for any adversary,” Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said in a press release. “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.”
That would appear to be a reference to the long lead time before Australia gets its first nuclear attack submarine and the fact the Collins class submarines are getting long in the tooth, though they have been substantially upgraded.
Technically known as Extra Large Autonomous Undersea Vehicles (XL-AUVs), the subs will be between 40 feet and 80 feet long. The extraordinary price and speed of deployment are made possible by the fact that the system is based on a commercial model that is partially 3D printed. Even so, that timeline seems bold, something the company admits: “The three-year XL-AUV development program has an incredibly ambitious delivery schedule which will involve capability assessment and prototyping in record time using Anduril’s agile capability development systems,” it said in a statement announcing the deal.
Anduril bought a Boston startup called Dive Technologies in February and created Anduril Australia, an independent entity headquartered in Sydney, last month.
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The sub will be both an important source of intelligence and targeting information and may have torpedo tubes and boast other weapons, but those details are still being hammered out with the RAN, Chris Brose, head of strategy for Anduril told reporters Thursday.
One of the key differences from a traditional manned sub is that most of this weapon can be flooded, with sensors and weapons encased in pressure sanctuaries, instead of the entire hull being primarily designed to protect the fragile humans inside.
Importantly for Australia, keen to boost its industrial base and ensure it can sustain its forces in time of war with so-called sovereign capabilities, Anduril plans to build the submarines here, Brose said. No decision has yet been made about where they would be built, but the obvious possibilities are Adelaide, where the Collins class submarines were built; Perth, where both conventional Australian and US and UK nuclear submarines regularly call; and Brisbane, which boasts a wide range of shipbuilding companies.
In addition, Anduril will actively partner with other Australian SMEs and the research and technology communities to source nearly all elements of the supply chain for the program,” the company statement says.
This could be, as Australia hopes will be the case for the Ghost Bat aircraft, a major defense export for Australia. While Brose pushed back at the idea the company might be “avoiding” US ITAR arms export restrictions in its design, the fact is that weapons built without controlled US defense components can be sold without US permission. As the European satellite industry has convincingly demonstrated, this can be a substantial advantage in the international marketplace.
The sub will, of course, be designed with an open architecture to allow the easiest integration of sensors and longterm upgrades. Anduril’s expertise in artificial intelligence and autonomy will also be applied. “The XL-AUV will harness the latest developments in autonomy, edge computing, sensor fusion, propulsion and robotics to bring advanced capability to the Royal Australian Navy,” Palmer Luckey, Anduril’s founder, said in the statement.