Huntington Ingalls aims to boost sustainment activities with unmanned vessels


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SEA-AIR-SPACE NEWS: Huntington Ingalls aims to boost sustainment activities with unmanned ships

Photo by Huntington Ingalls

NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland – Huntington Ingalls Industries, the country’s largest military shipbuilder, is preparing to build new robotic ships for the Navy, but it also sees major business opportunities in maintaining the platforms, company officials say.

The Navy’s latest update to its long-term shipbuilding plan, released in June, envisioned up to 140 surface ships and unmanned underwater vehicles in its future inventory. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated that a third of the Navy’s fleet could be robotized in the decades to come.

Huntington Ingalls is already making significant investments to strengthen its infrastructure and expertise in building these types of platforms.

He has been aggressive in acquiring or investing in other companies with enabling capabilities such as Hydroid, Alion Science and Technology and Sea Machines Robotics, noted Andy Green, executive vice president of HII and president of its division. technical solutions.

The company also invested $ 46 million in a new unmanned systems center of excellence that includes a 135,000 square foot main building and 22,000 square foot initial assembly building on 20 acres in Hampton, Virginia. . The facilities will allow for the construction of a wide variety of potential UUVs and USVs, according to Green.

“All of this is designed to reflect our belief that this will be a fast growing market,” he said on August 2 at a press conference at the annual Sea-Air-Space conference. of the Navy League in National Harbor, Maryland.

“Right now, unmanned vehicles – as a percentage of revenue for any large company – are pretty low… in terms of UUVs and USVs,” he said. However, “we see it as a high growth area. We see that it certainly goes way beyond your [growth rate for] traditional spending on traditional platforms.

However, the company doesn’t just build robotic ships and submarines. He also wants to be paid to help support them once they’re deployed.

“We are aligned with the idea of ​​the Navy that unmanned vehicles are going to be an important component of the future fleet,” said Green. “We have thought about the maintenance of these vehicles. … There is a long logistic and support train that goes with what we have to think about.

“We try to stay in tune with the Navy in terms of what they think, and how these programs evolve, so that we can make sure that we are not just involved in their construction and integration and the technologies associated with them. , but we are also involved in the entire lifecycle of this platform, the sustainment and the logistics that go with it, ”he added.

Green noted that the contractor has a long history of performing sustainment work on Navy manned systems that are deployed around the world, and he hopes to leverage that expertise as well as the know-how of its newly acquired companies.

“We have this basic DNA at HII so that we can do that,” he said. “How exactly that happens remains to be seen, and it kind of depends on the platform. ”

It would be easier to maintain smaller vessels such as some of the UUVs that have been developed, as they can be easily transported to maintenance facilities, he noted.

“Our smaller unmanned platforms, you and I can pick it up and transport it,” he said. National Defense. “You can put it on a truck or a plane and you can send it anywhere” to be worked on.

For larger systems, HII could deploy personnel overseas to perform sustainment activities, he noted.

“The bigger they get, the harder they are to move and the more complex they are,” he said. “In the future, if you had deployed an advanced UUV, we would… [go] to that place bring a conex box that has all the right tools and everything we need to do it, get the right technicians and take them there and fix it on site if it is too difficult to do it send back “for maintenance,” he said.

The subjects: Robotics and autonomous systems

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