The U.S. Navy is expected to buy a second autonomous vessel built by a Leidos-led team as the service prepares to take over control of the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, USNI News reported Friday.
Timothy Barton, maritime chief engineer at Leidos, said DARPA has begun the transition of the Sea Hunter unmanned vessel to the Office of Naval Research for a two-year trial program.
“We’re about to build a second hull and maybe a third,” Barton said during a Thursday presentation at the Defense and Security Equipment International exhibition in London.
“The Navy are still interested in ASW but their real interest is in the ‘autonomous truck’ capability, where we can integrate bathymetric survey or surveillance,” he added.
Barton noted the second unmanned vessel could cost approximately $25 million and will be built at an undisclosed facility in Mississippi.
Rear Adm. David Hahn, ONR commanding officer, said DARPA would hand over the ACTUV program’s control to the Navy by the end of October.
“It’s being handed over to the ONR so that we can now start to embed it with other warfighting capabilities and truly start to explore how you team with unmanned surface vehicles for warfighting,” Hahn added.
Leidos led an industry team to design and build the 132-foot Sea Hunter that works to monitor submarines for up to three months under a $59 million contract DARPA awarded in 2012.
News on the transition came more than a year after DARPA held a christening ceremony for the unmanned vessel’s prototype unit.