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NGC completes assembly of Manta Ray UUV for DARPA

US defence prime contractor Northrop Grumman Corporation has completed assembly of its Manta Ray full-scale Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (UUV) prototype.

It was built through a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program started in 2020 and aimed at advancing key technologies to benefit future UUV designs, including techniques to manage energy, increased payload capacity, low-power propulsion and more.

Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation and Martin Defense Group, are each developing unique full-scale Manta Ray UUV demonstration vehicles for DARPA.

A new class of UUV, Manta Ray is an extra-large glider that will operate long-duration, long-range and payload-capable undersea missions without the need for on-site human logistics. In Phase 1 of the Manta Ray 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 awarded Phase 2 contracts to both contractors to continue the Manta Ray program and demonstrate innovative technologies allowing payload-capable autonomous unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to operate on long-duration, long-range missions in ocean environments.

Northrop Grumman developed its Manta Ray demonstrator using several novel design attributes that support DARPA’s vision of providing ground-breaking technology to create strategic surprise. The UUV is:

  • Payload-capable to support a variety of missions
  • Autonomous, without the need for on-site human logistics
  • Energy-saving, with the ability to anchor to the seafloor and hibernate in a low-power state
  • Modular, for easy shipment in five standard shipping containers to support expeditionary deployment and in-field assembly world-wide

“DARPA’s Manta Ray program has made significant breakthroughs toward enabling payload-capable autonomous underwater vehicles to operate independently of crewed vessels or support infrastructure,” stated CDR Kyle Woerner, DARPA’s Manta Ray program manager. “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.”

The Manta Ray program concluded Phase 1 with Critical Design Reviews that demonstrated design maturity and readiness for advancement to Phase 2. The selected primes will now work on subsystem testing followed by fabrication and in-water demonstrations of full-scale integrated vehicles.

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