The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US has selected three prime contractors for an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) development programme.

The selected contractors for the Manta Ray project include Northrop Grumman Systems, Martin Defense Group, (formerly Navatek) and Metron.

Launched last year, the Manta Ray project aims to develop UUVs that will be capable of operating for long durations without human intervention and undertake long range missions.

The preliminary design reviews were completed earlier this year.

The programme, if successful, is expected to increase operational flexibilities of traditional host vessels.

It will also address other naval challenges including energy management, navigation and underwater obstacle avoidance among others.

Manta Ray programme manager Kyle Woerner said: “Manta Ray performers have each taken unique approaches to solving the wide range of challenges related to UUV endurance.

“To me, this is a clear sign we are tackling a complex problem without a clear ‘one size fits all’ solution.

“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.”

Northrop Grumman Systems and Martin Defense Group will continue with the development of fully-integrated demonstration vehicles, while Metron will work on a novel energy harvesting subsystem.

In November last year, Gibbs & Cox’s DLBA Division was selected to support DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO) on the No Manning Required, Ship (NOMARS) programme.

NOMARS project seeks to develop a clean sheet design ship that can autonomously operate at sea for long durations.