Boeing moves ahead on installing sensors and weapons aboard Orca extra-large unmanned underwater vehicles

July 27, 2022
Extra-large UUVs and their weapons and sensors typically are autonomous mini-submarines that measure about seven feet in diameter.

ARLINGTON, Va. – Undersea warfare experts at the Boeing Co. are moving forward with a project to integrate an advanced undersea payload-delivery system aboard the company's Orca extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle (XLUUV) under terms of a $8.5 million order announced Tuesday.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking the Boeing Defense, Space & Security segment in Huntington Beach, Calif., for option three of the second phase of the DARPA Hunter program. The Hunter program involves only developing and integrating the payload-delivery system, and not the extra-large UUV itself.

DARPA Hunter for unmanned submarines payloads is in three phases: the first to design and build the payload-delivery device to fit inside a government-provided payload module; and the second and third phases to support integration of the payload-delivery device into the big UUV for testing. Technical details of the Hunter program are classified.

The Northrop Grumman Mission Systems segment in Linthicum Heights, Md., is in charge of developing the payload-delivery system, which Boeing is integrating aboard the company's Orca extra-large UUV.

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Northrop Grumman won a $9.9 million DARPA Hunter phase-two order in June 2019. Two years before that, the company won a $5.8 million Hunter phase-one contract.

Northrop Grumman and Boeing are integrating the XLUUV payload-delivery system aboard the Boeing Orca for persistent-surveillance sensors, and to deploy weapons, other UUVs, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The Boeing Co. Defense, Space & Security segment in Huntington Beach, Calif., won a $43 million order in February 2019 from U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington to build four Orca XLUUVs that could undertake long-endurance missions to deploy sensors or other UUVs.

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Extra-large UUVs and their weapons and sensors typically are autonomous mini-submarines that measure about seven feet in diameter -- sometimes larger. They are designed for launch from shore, from large military ships with well decks, or from large civil vessels with moon pools.

One of the U.S. military research projects that have led to the Boeing Orca XLUUV and the Northrop Grumman Hunter XLUUV payload-delivery system has been the Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV) of the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va.

On this contract Boeing will do the work in Huntington Beach, Calif., and should be finished by March 2023. This order brings the total value of the contract to $36.8 million. For more information contact Northrop Grumman Mission Systems online at, Boeing Defense, Space & Security at, or DARPA at

About the Author

John Keller | Editor-in-Chief

John Keller is the Editor-in-Chief, Military & Aerospace Electronics Magazine--provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronics and optoelectronic technologies in military, space and commercial aviation applications. John has been a member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since 1989 and chief editor since 1995.

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