The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is continuing its Manta Ray unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) program with the down-select of three prime contractors for the project.
The three companies that will help DARPA demonstrate innovative technologies allowing payload-capable unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to operate on long-duration, long-range missions in ocean environments are Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, Martin Defense Group, LLC (formerly Navatek, LLC), and Metron, Inc.
Lockheed Martin was also part of the first phase of the program, but is not among the three companies selected to proceed with the project.
The Manta Ray project seeks to develop UUVs that operate for extended durations without the need for on-site human logistics support or maintenance. It also aims to address critical challenges spanning energy management, UUV reliability, biofouling, corrosion control, navigation, underwater obstacle avoidance, and many other areas that could benefit Navy operations.
“Manta Ray performers have each taken unique approaches to solving the wide range of challenges related to UUV endurance,” said CDR Kyle Woerner, the program manager for Manta Ray. “To me, this is a clear sign we are tackling a complex problem without a clear ‘one size fits all’ solution.”
The program concluded its first major milestone with the completion of preliminary design reviews in early 2021. Later this year, selected performers will advance their designs toward a critical design review that will confirm design maturity before vehicle fabrication and testing in an anticipated phase 2.
“The goals of this new class of undersea vehicle and its critical component technologies are to inform, as well as transition into, future Navy UUV efforts,” added Woerner.
Two of the selected performers, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation and Martin Defense Group, LLC, will continue development of fully-integrated demonstration vehicles. A third performer, Metron, Inc., will advance progress on a novel energy harvesting subsystem.