Martin Defense to Integrate Enabling Technologies and Power Management for Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles

ARLINGTON, Va. – US military researchers are moving forward with a project to develop enabling technologies for future large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) with long endurance and high payload capacity.

Officials at the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., announced a $54.8 million contract late last month with Martin Defense Group in Honolulu for phase two of the Manta Ray program. .

Manta Ray is to open up design space for future UUVs capable of long-duration missions and high payload capacity, as well as advancing key technologies that will benefit other naval designs such as UUV operations at low cost, long life underwater energy management, reduced biofouling and long life navigation.

Martin Defense was among Manta Ray’s phase one contractors, which included Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Navatek LLC. The program develops enabling technologies in energy management and recovery; low-power, high-efficiency propulsion; efficient navigation; mission management; command, control and communications during long-term deployments; and techniques to mitigate biofouling, corrosion, and degradation of other materials.

Related: Navy Considers Enabling Technologies and Standards for Future Networking to Link Unmanned Vehicles

The first phase was to develop enabling technologies and sub-systems for the future large UUV Manta Ray, and the second phase will focus on system integration, depending on the overall risk posture, maturity of the sub- critical systems and technical performance. The third phase also involves early testing to reduce program risk, as well as integration testing of Manta Ray energy management techniques.

UUVs that operate for extended durations without the need for logistical support or human maintenance offer the potential for persistent operations in advanced environments, DARPA officials say. Such systems could improve the flexibility of traditional manned host ships by providing service ports and reducing workloads, officials say.

The Manta Ray program aims to demonstrate core technologies for a new class of long-duration, long-range, payload-capable UUVs to provide additional capability to military commanders without disrupting their operations. The main aspects of the Manta Ray program are classified.

The Manta Ray program aims to develop key technologies in energy management for UUV operations; energy harvesting at submerged depths; low-power, high-efficiency underwater propulsion; and low-power underwater detection and classification of counter-detection hazards or threats.

Related: Unmanned submarines are seen as the key to dominating the world’s oceans

Manta Ray will also investigate mission management technologies for extended UUV operations; high performance underwater navigation; and new ways to mitigate biofouling, corrosion, and other material degradation for long-duration missions.

The Manta Ray project will include an at-sea demonstration of key technologies to define program objectives and identify enabling technologies needed for future systems.

On this phase two Manta Ray contract, Martin Defense will perform the work in Honolulu; Seattle; Arlington, Virginia; South Kingstown, RI; Raleigh and Greenville, North Carolina; and Woburn, Mass., and is expected to be completed by August 2024.

For more information, contact Martin Defense Group online at https://mdefensegroup.com, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil/program/manta-ray.

Alan A. Seibert