Launched in March 2016, Echo Voyager is the largest iteration of Boeing’s Echo UUV lineup.
Classified as an XLUUL (the XL is for Extra Large), the vehicle is up to 25.9 metres in length and capable of descending 3,000 metres below the surface of the water.
Using one fuel module, Echo Voyager has 6,500nm of range, while it can travel 150nm at subsea level until needing to be recharged. It has a top speed of eight knots and can be at sea for months at a time.
Tubbs said platforms such as Echo Voyager offered military operators more flexibility in how they deployed their assets in various intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance tasks.
“There will never be enough submarines for any of the allied navies,” Tubbs said at PACIFIC 2017 on Wednesday.
“So how do you offload those missions that you can do with something that is unmanned and allow the manned submarines to do those missions that you will only do with a manned submarine.
“That’s really the way that we have designed the capability. It operates in conjunction with but not in lieu of the submarine.”
Boeing conducted sea trials of Echo Voyager at its Huntington Beach, California facility between March and June 2017. During those trials, which were designed to test basic capabilities, the vehicle reached a depth of 300 metres.
Tubbs said Boeing had been talking to potential customers in Australia “for some time now”.
“Certainly, even here in Australia we’ve had some discussions about this capability over the last couple of years, with various folks in the Navy, with various folks in the scientific community as well,” Tubbs said.
“They are looking for information, they are interested in the capability, they are starting to look at what is the realm of the possible to employ this technology to do the things they would like to do.
“This is really our first opportunity to talk about our initial sea trials that we just completed.”
The company plans to bring the vessel back to the water for more trials and testing in early 2018 which will put the vehicle under more stress and “closer to the edges of the design parameters”.
Echo Voyager, which was designed to be deployed from a pier, features an internal payload of up to 56.6 cubic metres that can be configured for a variety of purposes, including in a variety of civil and commercial roles.
“As we put the business case forward to the company to get the investment to build this system, it included civil, it included commercial in oil and gas for instance, it included scientific, it did include defence as well, and other government operations,” Tubbs said.
“It was an across the board capability. It’s really what is the payload that you put on board that enables that mission.”