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DARPA's Manta Ray UUV clears preliminary design reviews

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has cleared a major developmental milestone for a key unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) programme, which agency engineers anticipate could spark significant progress towards fielding a new class of long-range, long-endurance autonomous submersibles.

The Manta Ray UUV programme completed preliminary design review (PDR) earlier this year, with agency officials planning to secure critical design review (CDR) approval “that will confirm design maturity” later this year. Once the PDR is complete, programme officials will proceed with vehicle fabrication and testing of Manta Ray prototypes during the second phase of the UUV’s development schedule, DARPA officials said on 5 February.

“The goals of this new class of undersea vehicle and its critical-component technologies are to inform, as well as transition into, future Navy UUV efforts,” Manta Ray programme manager Navy Commander Kyle Woerner said in an agency statement. The second phase of the UUV’s development will be spearheaded by Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, Martin Defense Group, LLC, and Metron, Inc.

Development efforts led by the Northrop Grumman team and Martin Defense Group, which was formerly known as Navatek, LLC, in phase two, will focus on the “development of fully integrated demonstration vehicles” for testing and evaluation later this year, agency officials said on 5 February. The Manta Ray team at Metron will focus on creating prototype variants of “a novel energy-harvesting subsystem” to further advance research work on advanced propulsion alternatives for the UUV, the officials added.

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