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Northrop Grumman Awarded Unmanned Surface Vessel Contract From DARPA

The ACTUV is intended to trail and monitor targets autonomously.
by Staff Writers
Annapolis MD (SPX) Jan 06, 2011
Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), leading the way for a new class of ocean-going unmanned surface vessels (USVs).

Under the terms of the $2 million contract, Northrop Grumman will develop a concept, specifications and a manufacturing plan by the end of March 2011 for a persistent, autonomous vessel that can perform both ASW tracking and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance functions.

The ACTUV is intended to trail and monitor targets autonomously. A collection of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) and advanced, customized sensors would provide the ACTUV's command and control system with the situational awareness it needs to respond to target behaviors.

High-fidelity surface-navigation sensors and system constraints would help ensure compliance with the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) and with maritime law.

"Our ACTUV solution will include a feasible vehicle that will be capable of quickly transitioning into an operational system - like the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, which flew in just 33 months," said Robert DuBeau, vice president of Northrop Grumman's Undersea Systems business unit.

"With our extensive experience in undersea and surface systems, we are well positioned to advance the state of the art in USVs."

Northrop Grumman leads a strong ACTUV team of technology leaders. These include Harris Inc. of Melbourne, Fla., a world leader in assured communications; Spatial Integrated Systems of Virginia Beach, Va., a premier USV autonomy provider; Vehicle Control Technologies Inc. of Reston, Va., developer of more than 340 vehicle control systems; and The Pennsylvania State University, Advanced Research Laboratory of State College, Pa., a leader in unmanned vehicle propulsion and power systems.

Over the past decade, Northrop Grumman's Undersea Systems business unit has successfully developed and integrated numerous USVs, including the U.S. Navy's Spartan and the Naval Expeditionary Overwatch (NEO) USVs. To enhance flexibility and enable future growth as missions evolve, Northrop Grumman's ACTUV will employ open standards, COTS components and a Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA), all of which enable low-cost, high-volume manufacturing.

Northrop Grumman will also be drawing upon its extensive experience in developing and delivering unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Combat-proven systems include the RQ-4 Global Hawk with 37,000 combat hours and the Hunter with 75,000 hours. Other unmanned naval systems include the carrier-capable X-47B and the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS). In all, Northrop Grumman has provided more than 100,000 unmanned systems to military customers.

Northrop Grumman has been a global leader in unmanned systems for over 60 years. This includes the recent DARPA Collaborative Network of Autonomous Vehicles (CNAV) program, which achieved over 10,000 at-sea Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) hours.

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