Britain's New Large Submarine Drone: Herne XLAUV Design
Britain's largest defense company, BAE Systems, has entered the underwater drone space in a big way. The Herne design was revealed ahead of the Euronaval 2022 defense expo in France.
Herne is branded as an XLAUV (extra-large autonomous underwater vehicle). This is synonymous with the wider XLUUV terminology.
The design has a large flooded payload space in the forward half of the vehicle. In the company graphics this is shown with an ROV (remote operated vehicle) with reel system. There is also an upwards and downwards payload bay above/below it. These are shown with three smaller AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles) each.
Although the dimensions of the Herne have not been shared by BAE Systems, it is shown as a snug fit inside a standard shipping container. So around 2 meters wide and 12 meters long. This places it in the XLUUV category but also means that it is still small enough to be road-mobile. And it can be lifted into the water by a truck mounted crane. This means that it is more flexible than larger XLUUVs, but will naturally sacrifice some range and payload to achieve this.
The craft uses a double-hull construction. The light outer hull has a different cross-section than the cylindrical inner one. This allows air flasks, tanks, masts and battery pods to be integrated into the outer hull. The whole craft can be broken in two which allows the front of the main pressure hull to be opened. This can then be pulled out for easy maintenance on the electrical systems.
The propulsion is not described but is shown with rim-drive propulsor at the stern. The horizontal and vertical thrusters in the bow also appear to use rim-drive motors.
Herne is a modular system and can incorporate additional hull sections. Potentially this could make it significantly larger and/or increase endurance.
BAE Systems suggests that the vehicle can be launched from the pier, or from surface ships. They also suggest submarine launch although any existing British submarines would need extensive modifications.