Boeing has signed an $11m contract for the refurbishment of the US Navy’s AN/BLQ-11 Long-term Mine Reconnaissance System and further investigation of Unmanned Undersea Vehicle capabilities and technologies via-sea testing.

The work will be performed at Boeing facilities in Anaheim, California, and at test ranges in Puget Sound, Washington, Norfolk, Virginia, and the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center near Andros Island, Bahamas.

While the navy has invested in a variety of other UUV systems that are currently in various stages of development, AN/BLQ-11 is the only submarine-certified, fully autonomous UUV system. In January, Boeing and the navy demonstrated the ability to perform homing and docking with an underway submarine.

‘We proved the feasibility of the homing and docking portion of the AN/BLQ-11 recovery concept,’ said Tom Jones, director of Boeing Marine Systems. ‘With this next round of testing, we will show the repeatability of the process and complete a full recovery evolution.’

During extensive testing in Washington State, the AN/BLQ-11 demonstrated a highly advanced level of autonomy. It is designed to be launched, torpedo-style, from Los Angeles class submarines to survey, detect and gather data on underwater objects for more than 12 hours.

Upon completion of its duties, AN/BLQ-11 would then home in and dock with the submarine's 60-foot robotic arm for recovery back through the torpedo launch tube. This system enables operators to retrieve data collected and prepare the vehicle for its next mission. The AN/BLQ-11 system consists of a recovery arm, two unmanned undersea vehicles, shipboard deployed equipment and non-deployed shore support equipment.