The Navy released the final request for proposals (RFP) for its Snakehead Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LDUUV) Phase 2 program, the largest of its submarine-launched unmanned systems.
The service is already in fabrication on its Phase 1 LDUUV, which will deliver next year to begin test and evaluation activities. The vehicles delivered under this Phase 2 LDUUV contract will be the first ones used operationally.
The RFP covers the design, development, and fabrication of two prototype vehicles, which will be competitively awarded to a single vendor, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command. Proposals are expected early in 2021, and an award would be made by the fall.
“Snakehead is a long-endurance, multi-mission UUV, deployed from submarine large ocean interfaces, with the capability to deploy reconfigurable payloads. The LDUUV will provide guidance and control, navigation, autonomy, situational awareness, core communications, power distribution, energy and power, propulsion and maneuvering, other hotel functionality, and sensors in support of the Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (IPOE) mission,” reads a description of the program that accompanies the RFP. Other missions and payloads could be added later, but IPOE will be the initial focus of the LDUUV vehicles.
The LDUUV Phase 2 vehicle will integrate with submarines outfitted with the Modernized Dry Dock Shelter (DDS) and the Payload Handling System (PHS). The Navy has previously discussed the idea of also launching them from select surface ships.
The Navy had previously outlined a timeline for the Snakehead LDUUV that would have put the Phase 1 prototype in the water for testing in 2019, rather than 2021. Though the Navy is running behind that previous schedule, it is taking steps now to smooth its path to fielding and beginning to operate the LDUUVs. USNI News previously reported that UUV Squadron One (UUVRON-1) has been working with two prototypes from the Penn State Applied Research Lab that are a representative size of the LDUUVs, allowing the UUVRON to work out the launch and recovery procedures even while Phase 1 is still in fabrication. By the time the Phase 2 prototypes deliver following this competition, UUVRON will be ready to accept and begin using the vehicles.
NAVSEA hosted a virtual industry day on LDUUV on June 16 and 17, according to the news release. Representatives from more than 50 companies took part via teleconference, and feedback from the industry day was incorporated in a draft RFP that was issued on Oct. 29. Additional industry feedback was considered to inform the final RFP.