The United States Navy would like to develop two key features for its next-generation SSN(X) successor to the Virginia-class attack submarines. One feature would effectively turn the future attack submarine into a underwater mother-ship for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) while another would dispense with noise-generating moving parts such as a propulsor or driveshaft in the propulsion system.
Vision of drones on a mother ship submarine like remoras
“I would like some organic means of designing the submarine from the ground up that would seamlessly integrate UUVs,” Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley, the Navy’s program executive officer for submarines told the House Armed Services Committee on July 14.
Such a feat is still a technological leap. However, it would be a vast improvement on the current system of using every opening on a submarine to deploy a UUV. The Navy’s undersea force uses everything from torpedo tubes to the submarines’ trash chute to launch UUVs. A system such as the one Jabaley envisions would allow a future attack submarine to launch and recover UUVs at will.
The second innovation Jabaley wishes the Navy could develop is also inspired by nature—a biomimetic propulsion system that would eliminate a drive shaft and the spinning blades of a propulsor. If successful, that would lead to a revolutionary leap in acoustic performance.
The Navy has essentially reached the limits of what is possible for acoustic signature reduction with a purely mechanical system. While the future Ohio Replacement Program—and potentially even a follow-on attack submarine—are expected to use a permanent magnetic motor to increase stealth, Jabaley wants to take a step further. “The field of biomimetics is very interesting to me when you look at nature in actions and you think: ‘Boy, it would be great if we could design something that would take that leap forward and get us into a realm that would be acoustic-self unlike anything we’ve ever done before,’” Jabaley said.
A detailed design for the first Ohio Replacement Program is slated for 2017.
SOURCES- National Interest