The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Lockheed Martin a $12.3 million contract for the first phase of the development of the Manta Ray extra-large unmanned underwater vehicle (XLUUV).
This phase of the program is expected to be completed by January 2021, with over half of the work taking place at Lockheed’s West Palm Beach facility, the company’s hub for manned and unmanned undersea systems development.
DARPA’s Manta Ray program seeks to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of long duration, long range, payload-capable UUVs. If successful, this new class of UUV will give the combatant commander an amplification of capacity without disrupting current operations by remaining independent of manned vessels and ports once deployed.
The Manta Ray program plans to advance key technologies that will benefit future UUV designs, including novel energy management techniques for UUV operations and undersea energy harvesting techniques at operationally relevant depths, low-power, high efficiency undersea propulsion systems, and new approaches to mitigate biofouling, corrosion, and other material degradation for long duration missions.
Lockheed is also working on another XLUUV project for the US Navy together with Boeing. In February 2019, the navy awarded Boeing a $43-million contract to build four Orca XLUUVs. The 51-foot-long submersible is based on Boeing’s Echo Voyager and has an autonomy of 6,500 nautical miles. The navy expects to evaluate the capability of the Orca XLUUV to carry out mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions.