18 April 2024

Ghost Shark autonomous underwater vehicle prototype ready for testing

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Ghost Shark XL-AUV

Concept art of the Ghost Shark XL-AUV. Image: ADF.

A program to develop an Australian-designed and developed extra-large autonomous underwater vehicle (XL-AUV) has seen the delivery of a prototype to Defence for testing.

The Ghost Shark XL-AUV has been designed by Anduril Australia in partnership with the Australian Defence Force’s Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group, and has today (18 April) been handed over to Defence’s Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA) for further development.

Ghost Shark is designed to be a stealthy, long-range autonomous undersea warfare capability that can conduct persistent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike.

While Defence is staying coy on its dimensions, range and endurance, the photos of the XL-AUV suggest it is about 12 metres long and has a square section hull roughly three metres deep. This will likely give it the capability to deploy for weeks at a time, either from a home port in Australia’s north, or a mothership.

The system will become Mission Zero (0) for the ASCA, with Defence saying only its highest priorities are used to select ASCA missions and there must be an identified pathway for the innovation to transition to capability.

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ASCA was established last May with a vision to develop priority programs such as hypersonics, directed energy, trusted autonomy, quantum technology, information warfare and long-range fires, some of which are part of Pillar Two of the trilateral AUKUS agreement between Australia, the US and the UK.

As part of Ghost Shark’s development, the Navy will also explore the potential for synergies between its XL-AUV program and future trilateral collaboration through AUKUS Advanced Capabilities.

Minister for Defence Industry Pat Conroy described Ghost Shark as an exemplar of how Defence and Australian industry could move at speed to develop new sovereign capabilities to respond to new challenges.

“By transitioning Ghost Shark to ASCA, a clear statement is being made about Defence’s commitment to the program,” he said.

“ASCA is focussed on speeding up the transition of innovation into capability that will give our Australian Defence Force an edge, while creating more jobs for Australians commercialising the technology.”

Ghost Shark XL-AUV

Photos suggest the Ghost Shark is about 12 metres in length and has a beam of between two and three metres. Photo: ADF.

Head of ASCA, Professor Emily Hilder said ASCA missions addressed strategically directed priorities that focused on rapidly delivering asymmetric capabilities to Defence.

“The co-funded and collaborative contract between Anduril Australia and Defence is a fast and innovative way for Defence to pursue new technology that directly relates to capability needs,” she said.

“ASCA wants to hear from Australian companies with solutions to Defence’s biggest challenges.”

Chief of Navy VADM Mark Hammond said the collaboration combined Navy’s expertise, ASCA’s speed to delivery, Defence’s scientific smarts and Anduril Australia’s experience in agile innovation.

“We are a nation girt by sea, and the Ghost Shark is one of the tools we are developing for the Navy to patrol and protect our oceans and our connection to the world.”

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