All-domain defense and technologies partner Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) announced on June 13, 2022 the successful demonstration of capabilities enabling HII-built amphibious warships to launch, operate with and recover HII-built Large-Diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (LDUUV).
The research and development initiative between HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and Mission Technologies divisions is among a portfolio of corporate led and funded internal research and development efforts aimed at advancing mission-critical technology solutions in support of HII’s national security customers.
«HII is committed to advancing the future of distributed maritime operations and demonstrating our capability to support unmanned vehicles on amphibious ships», said Kari Wilkinson, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, which hosted and partnered in the demonstration. «I am very proud of our team’s initiative to strengthen the flexibility of the ships we build by anticipating the challenges and opportunities that exist for our customers».
«This is a great example of how HII can leverage expertise across divisions to develop unique solutions for customers», said Andy Green, president of Mission Technologies. «HII is focused on growing critical enabling technologies, like unmanned systems and Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning (AI/ML) data analytics, to help further enhance the capabilities of our national security platforms».
HII-built San Antonio-class amphibious warships have unique well decks that can be flooded to launch and recover various maritime platforms. The U.S. Navy has previously demonstrated the ability to recover space craft from the amphibious warship well deck.
HII’s Advanced Technology Group, comprised of employees from across the company, performed the launch and recovery demonstration with a prototype platform called Pharos and HII’s LDUUV Proteus. The demonstration took place in the Pascagoula River.
The demonstration involved having the LDUUV approach and be captured by the Pharos cradle, while Pharos was being towed behind a small craft that simulated an amphibious ship at low speed. Pharos was put in a tow position, then using a remote control, it was ballasted down in the trailing position allowing the LDUUV to navigate into Pharos. Once the unmanned vehicle was captured, Pharos was deballasted back up into a recovery and transport position. The demonstration also included ballasting down to launch the LDUUV after the capture.
Pharos is outfitted with heavy duty wheels to allow its transport maneuverability within the well deck of an amphibious ship for stowage on the vehicle decks. Pharos can be rolled off the back of an amphibious ship while using the ship’s existing winch capabilities to extend and retract the platform from the well deck. The Pharos design is scalable and reconfigurable to fit various unmanned underwater or unmanned surface vehicles.
The Pharos design was conducted by HII, and three main partners supported the development. The University of New Orleans, in conjunction with the U.S. Navy, performed the initial model testing, and the prototype device was fabricated by Metal Shark in Louisiana.
HII is currently exploring modifications for other UUV’s and participating in live demonstrations with the fleet within the next year. HII will use results from the Pharos demonstration to further mature concepts and continue to develop innovative national security solutions.
HII is an all-domain defense and technologies partner, recognized worldwide as America’s largest shipbuilder. With a 135-year history of trusted partnerships in advancing U.S. national security, HII delivers critical capabilities ranging from the most powerful and survivable naval ships ever built, to unmanned systems, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and AI/ML analytics. HII leads the industry in mission-driven solutions that support and enable an all-domain force. Headquartered in Virginia, HII’s skilled workforce is 44,000 strong.