Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII], which makes large ships and submarines for the United States Navy and Coast Guard, on Friday said it has acquired a small business unit that designs and builds unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and specialty craft to complement submarine work it does at its Newport News Shipbuilding division.

Terms of the deal for the Engineering Solutions Division (ESD) of The Columbia Group were not disclosed. A spokeswoman for Newport News told Defense Daily that Florida-based ESD, which has about 30 employees, does less than $10 million in annual sales.

ESD's machine shop. Photo: The Columbia Group
ESD’s machine shop. Photo: The Columbia Group

ESD says on its website that it makes specialized manned and unmanned undersea craft for military customer around the world. The U.S. Navy sees UUVs “as an enabler to expand the reach and capability of manned submarines” and HII views the acquisition as an opportunity to grow in the undersea vehicles market, the spokeswoman said.

“ESD’s experience in designing and developing manned and unmanned submersibles is a natural extension of the submarine work we do at Newport News Shipbuilding,” Matt Mulherin, president of Newport News, said in a statement. “We believe the combination of Newport News and ESD expertise will enable us to compete successfully in the unmanned underwater vehicle market, and we are excited to welcome ESD to our team.

Ross Lindman, senior vice president of ESD, said in a statement that bringing together builders of UUVs and naval ships and submarines makes strategic sense “As the Navy moves toward greater employment of unmanned vehicles in both the surface and subsurface domains.” He added that “Together, we can support the development of large and very large unmanned undersea vehicles and stay in step with the Navy as unmanned systems take on greater and more complex roles in the undersea battle space.”

ESD designs, develops and tests various UUVs, including swimmer delivery vehicles, remotely operated vehicles, and autonomous underwater vehicles. The business also includes remotely operated land vehicles.

ESD will operate as Undersea Solutions Group, reporting to Newport News. The business unit’s workforce includes designers and engineers in various disciplines such as mechanical, ocean, coastal, electrical, and production engineering, and naval architecture, the spokeswoman said.

The Columbia Group is a professional services company with capabilities in logistics, program and financial management, and information technology. BB&T served as the company’s financial adviser on the transaction.