HII says unmanned center of excellence will boost manufacturing capacity

By Marjorie Censer / September 29, 2020 at 12:10 PM

The unmanned center of excellence Huntington Ingalls Industries is building in Hampton, VA, will ensure the company has the capacity to take on future unmanned underwater vehicle programs, according to a top executive.

In an interview with Inside Defense this week, Andy Green, who heads the company's technical solutions business, said Huntington Ingalls had long been considering an unmanned center of excellence.

About a year and a half ago, he noted, Boeing won contracts to build the first five Orca Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles. HII is on Boeing's team.

"We started looking at ways to support Boeing and ultimately the Navy on the Orca program," Green said. "This was all about looking at the long-term future of unmanned and, in particular, the future of the larger unmanned vehicles, so we looked at how can we in the near term improve affordability of the first five Orca vehicles, but then -- and more importantly -- how do we contribute to the program's success in the future by building out some capacity that would allow us to improve affordability for future buys?"

He said the new facility will be able to "support virtually any program in unmanned going forward."

Green noted that Newport News Shipbuilding and Ingalls Shipbuilding are set up to build large platforms with sizeable machinery.

"Clearly UUVs are much smaller vehicles," he said. "The production time on a UUV is certainly much less than a large warship."

The center of excellence will "be designed from beginning to end to build and support the construction and integration of larger UUVs," Green added.

He said the facility "really does illustrate our confidence in the industry and the growth in unmanned systems -- no question about that -- and I think that's based on what's been happening in unmanned for a long time."

Green said the industry has proven out concepts with small and medium UUVs.

Now, he added, the Navy is "starting to think about other ways to utilize large and extra large UUVs in areas that can really . . . strategically leverage those capabilities and extend the reach of the existing fleet assets."