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DARPA Progresses Manta Ray UUV Programme

Two Teams Selected for Phase 2

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced selection of two prime contractors – Northrop Grumman and Martin Defense Group – to take the Manta Ray UUV programme forward on 20 December.

Begun in 2020, the effort seeks to demonstrate innovative technologies allowing payload-capable autonomous UUVs to conduct long-duration, long-range missions in ocean environments. The two contractors are each developing unique full-scale demonstration vehicles under Phase 2 of the programme. Phase 1 saw design and preliminary testing conducted for 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’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, Manta Ray’s 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.

Having concluded Phase 1 with critical design reviews that demonstrated design maturity and readiness for progress to Phase 2, the primes will now work on subsystem testing, followed by fabrication and in-water demonstrations of full-scale integrated vehicles.


An artist’s concept of a Manta Ray UUV. (Image: DARPA)

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