The French army dreams of a first underwater combat drone

To strengthen the French Navy, the Ministry of the Armed Forces has launched studies on the use of underwater drones. A major stake for future naval battles.

The war between Russia and Ukraine has launched plans to “dronize” armies around the world. In France too, this is being played out in the marine field, where the government has launched a study on the development of ocean-going submarines with the company Naval Group.

The announcement was made during the press briefing of June 2, 2023 of the Ministry of the Armed Forces during which we learned that a market “had been notified” on May 4 to Naval Group. The objective of this partnership is to prepare the program called UCUV (Unmanned Combat Underwater Vehicles), which plans to design and launch the first French underwater drones, indicates the specialized media Opex360.

The A18D, unmanned autonomous vehicle of French manufacture // Source: Exail-Balao

The DGA (Direction Générale de l’Armement) asked Naval Group to study the main use cases and the system architecture of a large underwater drone. ” This armed drone project will be characterized by a great autonomy and a large extension says the army spokeswoman. The device should provide intelligence, surveillance and military strike capabilities. As a bonus, he will intervene in the fight under the sea “.

The sea, a new terrain

For France, this is an important issue. This study, which is being carried out within the framework of the Government’s draft military programming law 2024-2030, aims to fill the technological gap of the French Navy with its international competitors. Ukraine has been particularly noted for its use of maritime drones in its conflict with Russia. In this maritime arms race, we also find the United States, which has an entire fleet of unmanned ships, or even North Korea and Russia, which are working on underwater drones.

USV Ranger and Nomad, two drones of the Ghost Fleet Overlord.  // Source: US Navy
USV Ranger and Nomad, two drones of the Ghost Fleet Overlord. // Source: US Navy

For France, which has the second largest maritime domain in the world, after the United States, the stakes are high. To protect such a surface, it is essential to have an efficient and responsive fleet. Objectives that drones can fulfill, since they are controlled remotely. A major technological advantage, which suggests that the next naval battle will be with drones.

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