A joint effort between the US Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat is refining a prototype system that would launch and capture underwater drones from submerged submarines.
Using a vacant missile tube on a cruise missile submarine the Universal Launch and Recovery Module (ULRM) is designed to bring UUVs from inside a vessel to a launch point outside its hull. Once in a ready position a UUV could be launched to conduct underwater missions ranging from counter-mine patrols to surveillance and recon operations.
Essentially a 60” wide, 23-foot long elevator, the ULRM contains vehicle stowing cradles that carry its UUV cargo away from its mother ship and into the open ocean. Once free of its sub the cradle rotates perpendicular to its missile tube housing where its autonomous cargo is free to launch.
While the Navy hasn’t yet said when the ULRM might be fully operational, initial test have been promising enough to warrant a seaborne trial in the near future.
Images Courtesy of General Dynamics Electric Boat