Report: Detailed satellite image reveals secretive US naval drone - M5 Dergi
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Report: Detailed satellite image reveals secretive US naval drone

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A new uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV) prototype, known as the Manta Ray, has recently been spotted docked at the Port Hueneme naval base in California.

A current Google Earth image of Port Hueneme shows the prototype, highlighting its readiness for tests and deployment.

The Manta Ray UUV draws inspiration from its namesake, the filter-feeding fish with diamond-shaped bodies and wing-like fins. This prototype is an extra-large glider capable of conducting long-duration missions without the need for on-board human support or maintenance. Its design allows it to anchor itself to the seabed and enter a low-power hibernation mode, conserving energy when not in active use.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched the Manta Ray program in 2020 with the aim of enhancing underwater vehicle design. The program focuses on increasing payload capacity and energy efficiency. Initially, DARPA selected three contractors—Northrop Grumman, Martin Defense Group LLC, and Metron Inc.—to develop prototypes. However, Metron Inc. exited the program in late 2021, leaving Northrop Grumman and Martin Defense Group LLC to continue with in-water demonstrations and testing.

Northrop Grumman’s Manta Ray prototype integrates several innovative features that align with DARPA’s vision of creating a strategic surprise in underwater operations. Key attributes include: autonomy, carrying capacity, energy efficiency, modularity.

The Manta Ray fits into five standard shipping containers, allowing for global transportation and rapid deployment.

Its advanced capabilities are expected to enhance strategic maritime operations, offering a versatile and energy-efficient solution for extended underwater missions.

The Manta Ray’s ability to operate autonomously and support various payloads positions it as a valuable asset for future naval operations. As development continues, the UUV could play a pivotal role in underwater surveillance, reconnaissance, and other critical missions.

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