Key point: The service is eyeing potential unmanned systems for "robot wolfpacks" of remotely-operated surface vessels to function as scouts, decoys, and forward electronic warfare platforms.
On Feb. 13, the Navy awarded Boeing a $43 million contract to produce four of the 51-foot Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs) that are capable of traveling some 6,500 nautical miles unaided, the U.S. Naval Institute reported.
According to USNI, the Navy could potentially deploy the Orcas from existing vessels to conduct "mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions."
Orca could even pack a Mk. 46 lightweight torpedo to take a shot at an enemy sub itself. It could also carry heavier Mk. 48 heavyweight torpedoes to attack surface ships, or even conceivably anti-ship missiles. Orca could drop off cargos on the seabed, detect, or even lay mines. The modular hardware payload system and open architecture software ensures Orca could be rapidly configured based on need.