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America’s largest military shipbuilder and its largest aerospace firm have teamed up in order to build underwater drones for the U.S. Navy. The partnership, which brings together Huntington Ingalls and Boeing, comes as the US Navy begins work on what it calls extra large unmanned undersea vehicles.
“This partnership provides the Navy a cost-effective, low-risk path to meet the emergent needs that prompted the Navy’s Advanced Undersea Prototyping program,” Darryl Davis, the president of Boeing Phantom Works, said in a statement. “We’re combining Boeing’s preeminent unmanned underwater vehicle maritime engineering team with our nation’s leading shipbuilder and Navy technical services company to get operational vehicles to the Navy years ahead of the standard acquisition process.”
According to defenseone.com, in recent months, Boeing has been touting the Echo Voyager, a 50-ton autonomous underwater drone that it is testing in the Pacific off the coast of California. In December, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work visited the Huntington Beach factory that is working on the project. “It’s impressive in every way,” Work said at the time. “I can’t wait for them to get it in the water and test it”. The unmanned submarine is 15.5 meters long. Various modules will allow the drone to accomplish different types of missions, like dropping mines, firing missiles or collecting data.
“The capabilities that it has, like being able to drop things out of the bottom, as well as launch things out of the top, long endurance, deep-diving depth, persistence, all of those things were really exciting to see,” Work said. The Navy, in its 2018 budget submission to Congress last month, said it plans to conduct trials with existing underwater drones and continue developing new types of technology before formally adding the craft to the fleet.
“This will help develop experience and demonstrate launch, communications, command and control, navigation, endurance, recovery, payload feasibility, and mission planning and execution for extra large unmanned underwater vehicles,” say the service budget documents.
“We look forward to a long relationship with Boeing as we embark together to field this unmanned force-multiplier for the Navy,” Andy Green, executive vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries and president of the company’s Technical Solutions division said in a statement. “I am confident this team will continue redefining the autonomy paradigm for UUVs.”