Engineering Imitating Life

A Manta Ray is a social creature that frequents the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef. Their curiosity and playful nature make the Manta Ray a favorite among scuba divers. Inspired by the graceful glide of these magnificent sea creatures, Northrop Grumman is creating a new class of UUV for undersea missions.

Northrop Grumman has been pioneering new capabilities in the undersea domain for more than 50 years. Manta Ray, a new unmanned underwater vehicle, taking its name from the massive “winged” fish, will need to be able to operate on long-duration, long-range missions in ocean environments without need for on-site human logistics support – a unique but important mission needed to address the complex nature of undersea warfare.

Northrop Grumman is developing its unique full-scale demonstration vehicle using several novel design attributes that support the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) vision of providing ground-breaking technology to create strategic surprise. Manta Ray will also be able to anchor to the seafloor in a low power state while harvesting energy from the environment.

“At Northrop Grumman, we’re creating a new type of unmanned underwater vehicle,” said Todd Leavitt, vice president, naval and oceanic systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our design can carry large payloads over long distances without the need for maintenance or refueling.”

Manta Ray will have command, control, and communications (C3) capability to enable long-duration operations with minimal human supervision. The data from Manta Ray will help the joint force make better decisions and gain advantage during missions.

“Manta Ray will provide payload capability from the sea, making it a critical component of subsea warfare and the DoD’s Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) vision,” said Alan Lytle, vice president, strategy and mission solutions, Northrop Grumman.

Northrop Grumman was recently awarded a Phase 2 contract to continue the Manta Ray program that began in 2020. As part of Phase 2, Northrop Grumman will work on subsystem testing followed by fabrication and in-water demonstrations of full-scale integrated vehicles. The company also broke ground on a new system integration and test lab that will use modeling and simulation to test the system’s software before getting loaded onto the vehicle.