The US Defense Advanced Research projects Agency (DARPA) has picked two competitors to proceed to Phase 2 of its Manta Ray program that seeks to demonstrate technologies for unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to carry out long-range, long-duration underwater missions.
The program began in 2020 and saw the agency downselect three companies for the program in February this year.
It has now awarded contracts to Northrop Grumman and Martin Defense Group to develop unique full-scale demonstration vehicles. Lockheed Martin was also part of the program in the earlier phases, but has not proceeded further.
The Manta Ray program seeks to develop UUVs that operate for extended durations without the need for on-site human logistics support or maintenance. In Phase 1 of the program, performers designed and conducted preliminary testing on novel approaches in energy management, UUV reliability, biofouling and corrosion control, navigation, and undersea obstacle avoidance, among other areas that directly enable long-endurance missions.
DARPA says its Manta Ray program has already made significant breakthroughs toward enabling payload-capable autonomous underwater vehicles to operate independently of crewed vessels or support infrastructure.
“By investing in diverse solutions, DARPA strengthens our ability to transition innovative undersea technologies to our national security partners. Manta Ray is uniquely positioning itself to simultaneously introduce a new class of underwater vehicle while contributing key component technologies to other vital undersea programs,” stated CDR Kyle Woerner, Manta Ray’s program manager.
The Manta Ray program concluded Phase 1 with Critical Design Reviews that demonstrated design maturity and readiness for advancement to Phase 2. The selected performers will now work on subsystem testing followed by fabrication and in-water demonstrations of full-scale integrated vehicles.