Northrop Grumman to Evaluate Underwater Naval Transport

Monday, November 20, 2006
A team led by Northrop Grumman Corporation has won a $5.4 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to determine the feasibility of using supercavitation technology for stable, controllable, high-speed underwater transport. The Underwater Express program is a DARPA technology research and evaluation program to establish the potential of a new technology. Supercavitation creates a gas cavity between the vehicle surface and the water, thereby reducing drag and increasing vehicle speed. The program's ultimate goal is a new class of underwater craft for littoral missions that can transport small groups of Navy personnel or specialized military cargo at speeds up to 100 knots. In Phase 1 of the contract, which will last for 13 months, Northrop Grumman and its teammates will establish the technology basis for supercavitation transport through a series of testing and modeling activities, and produce a concept design for an underwater demonstrator vehicle.

Most of the work will be divided between Northrop Grumman's Undersea Systems facility in Annapolis, Md., and Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory in State College, Pa. Other organizations contributing to the team include the University of Minnesota, the University of Maryland, the Navy's Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., and BBN Technologies of Cambridge, Mass.

"Supercavitation technology has great potential to increase the speed of underwater vehicles," said John Golombeck, vice president of Naval and Surface Systems for Northrop Grumman's Systems Development and Technology business unit. "By drawing on university research into supercavitation physics and adapting this technology for real-world use, we are opening up new naval transport opportunities." The contract comes with two 15-month options. Phase 2, worth up to $17 million, would include continued technology research at a larger scale and establish the detailed design of the demonstrator vehicle. Phase 3, worth up to $23.4 million, would include building a Demonstration Super-fast Supercavitating Transport (DSST) vehicle which would operate at 100 knots for durations of up to 10 minutes. The potential value of all three phases is $45.8 million.

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