The US Navy has awarded Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) a $347m contract for producing nine small unmanned undersea vehicles (SUUVs) as part of the Lionfish system programme. 

The contract has the potential to expand to 200 vehicles over the next five years, offering a leap in naval undersea capabilities for the US Navy.

HII has taken a step forward in unmanned undersea technology, with their Mission Technologies division announcing this development on 11 October, 2023. However, the true significance of this contract goes far beyond just the numbers.

The Lionfish System, built upon HII’s unmanned REMUS 300 platform, represents a change in naval undersea operations. As the Navy’s official programme of record for the next-generation SUUV, the Lionfish System offers a portable, two-person SUUV with an open architecture design and versatile payload options. 

It’s a technology that aims to embody adaptability and interoperability, aligning with the Navy’s strategic undersea priorities.

Administered by the Naval Sea Systems Command, this contract encompasses support for the Navy’s next-generation SUUVs, including afloat and auxiliary support equipment and engineering services. The vehicles will incorporate autonomous and unmanned technology, enabling them to undertake undersea missions for the Navy.

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Andy Green, the executive vice president of HII and president of Mission Technologies, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, saying, “Lionfish provides increased capability and interoperability that aligns with the Navy’s undersea priorities, and we look forward to delivering next-generation vehicles that can readily adapt to and support a variety of mission needs.”

Navies around the globe are increasingly investing in the development and integration of unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to create ‘hybrid’ fleet structures in the interest of enhancing survivability, increasing efficiency, and reducing the long-term costs of naval operations, according to GlobalData’s “Thematic Intelligence: Unmanned Maritime Vehicles 2023” report.

The significance of this achievement is not lost on Duane Fotheringham, president of Mission Technologies’ Unmanned Systems business group, who stated, “We are pleased with the Navy’s decision to support a combat-proven technology essential to the Navy’s undersea mission. Our team is committed to delivering fully capable vehicles that will enhance the effectiveness of the warfighter against emerging threats.”

Collaborating with the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit and the Navy, HII incorporated feedback from multiple user groups to create a solution that meets the warfighters’ needs.

Operating in over 30 countries, HII provides services, including design, autonomy, manufacturing, testing, operations, and sustainment of unmanned systems. This includes both UUVs and unmanned surface vessels (USVs).