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
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,
"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.