The US Navy is increasing their subsea footprint. The American submarine fleet recently purchased four Orca robotic submarines from Boeing. As the Navy continues to decommission older vessels, they are finding alternatives to increase the gap in the fleet.
The Orca is an Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle, or XLUUV. It is 51 feet long, displaces less than 2,000 tons of water and “can operate autonomously while sailing up to 6,500 nautical miles without being connected to a manned mother ship,” according to the Navy. In comparison the average U.S submarine is 400 feet long and displaces 6,000 tons, making them too large for shallow water operations and countermeasures.
Since the Orca is cheaper to build, small enough for shallow operations, and, being unmanned, is essentially expendable, these XLUUVs could help the Navy rapidly grow to address the increasingly advanced threats from the nation’s enemies including mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, and strike missions.
Yet the being expendable for the sake of limiting the amount of lives lost is not the same as being disposable. At $10.75 million dollars each, maintaining the XLUUV is critical for its service longevity.
Due to the significant time and cost savings it can offer in extending maintenance intervals and service life, selective plating can play a vital role on-board military vessels – manned or unmanned. The SIFCO Process® has already been adopted by naval forces across the US, UK and Japan, and is used on a wide range of components across the fleet.
While the process can be used in the shop to repair worn bearing journals and housings on small generators, pumps and fans; it can also be taken aboard the vessel for in-place repairs of large, hard to move, components such as propeller shafts, bearing seats, hydraulic rams, torpedo tubes and turbine casings.
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