After successfully introducing a version of its small-class unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) last year that features open architecture and modularity to help meet different customers’ needs, Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] is applying the same design philosophy to its larger UUVs, a company official said on Tuesday.
Last spring, HII released the Remus 300, a two-man portable UUV that can descend more than 300 meters and operate for as long as 30 hours. HII thinks the Remus 300 meets the Navy’s requirements for open architecture and modularity, Tom Reynolds, senior director for business development at HII’s Technical Solutions segment Unmanned Systems business, said during a media briefing as part of the Surface Navy Association’s National Symposium.
The Remus 300 features various payload and endurance configurations based on mission needs. HII believes the UUV meets the U.S. Navy’s requirements for open architecture and modularity.
“And we’ve taken advantage of all the technology advances in processing and payloads and sensors for this vehicle and that’s how we really see the medium and all our classes of unmanned under water vehicles going forward is following the Remus 300 design philosophy,” Reynolds said. “We’re going forward with that vehicle and in parallel those Navy programs are going on and they will largely just be a military variant of what we’re doing commercial.”
HII has sold more than 500 of its Remus UUVs to customers in 25 countries. Reynolds said that later this year the company expects to begin delivering the Remus 300 to some international customers. Last year, the U.S. Navy ordered two Remus 300s.
Scaling the open architecture and modularity design to larger UUVs should be easier than developing the architecture for the smaller systems, Reynolds said.
The open architecture and modularity design includes a separate tail section where the navigation system resides, an energy section for the batteries, a section for the core electronics, a payload area, and the nose section where the homing and docking components are situated, Reynolds.
The separate sections allow the customer to make changes as desired, he said. For example, the battery and fuel cell types could be swapped out, he noted.
For the payload section, HII is developing hardware and software developer kits that will allow a third party to “make their own payload for the vehicle,” Reynolds said. “So, each one of these different sections can be independently upgraded by the government or other customers, and, like I said, our forecast for them is pretty robust.”
In addition to the Remus 300, HII’s Technical Solutions segment offers the Remus 100, also a small UUV, the Remus 600, a medium UUV, and a large-class UUV. The company is also a key subcontractor to Boeing [BA] on the Extra-Large UUV program.
HII built up its unmanned and autonomous solutions business the past five years or so with a series of acquisitions. The company’s products and capabilities in this space range from small to extra-large UUVs to unmanned surface vehicles and autonomous navigation.
The acquisition in late 2020 of the autonomy business of Spatial Integrated Systems gave HII capabilities in maritime USVs and also in unmanned ground vehicles. In 2021, HII also acquired Alion Science and Technology, a deal that it said will help position it for the Navy’s future priorities, including integrated manned and unmanned platforms for networked naval warfare that leverages artificial intelligence and automation.
In late 2021, HII also completed its 155,000-square foot unmanned systems center of excellence, which will host a grand opening March. Reynolds said this facility is designed for further expansion if necessary.
Reynolds said that all the recent acquisitions bring autonomous solutions, AI, machine learning and big data analytics.
The investments in Alion and the unmanned systems companies have helped propel HII into a developer of “bleeding edge technology,” Reynolds said, adding that “what I hope you get out of this is we’re cross domain. While Huntington Ingalls is a shipyard, we certainly are looking to go after and solve problems in the unmanned ground vehicle space, the unmanned air vehicle space. Not the traditional Huntington Ingalls space.”
In 2021, due to congressional actions and the COVID-19 pandemic, Navy efforts toward UUV production slowed in favor of more engineering and testing work. Reynolds said based on the lack of language in the fiscal year 2022 defense bills tasking the Navy to continue to proceed more deliberately on its path with UUVs it appears that Congress realizes that Navy has “listened” to its demands to proceed more carefully in this space.
While some programs were delayed, Reynolds said there isn’t a “loss of momentum” but that requirements and operating concepts are being refined and considered.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that they don’t vendor lock,” he said. “They want more open and modular systems, so no one company can keep a product locked down, and at least that’s what our company has done.”