June 2022 saw Huntington Ingalls Industries (HHI) successfully demonstrate the ability of an amphibious warship to launch, operate with and recover a large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (LDUUV).
The research and development initiative between HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and mission technologies divisions is one of a portfolio of internal research and development efforts aimed at advance new technology in support of HHI’s customers, primarily the US Navy.
HII-built San Antonio-class amphibious warships have well decks that can be flooded to launch and recover maritime platforms. The US Navy has previously demonstrated the ability to recover space craft from the amphibious vessel’s well decks.
HII’s Advanced Technology Group conducted a launch and recovery demonstration with a prototype platform called Pharos and HII’s own LDUUV, Proteus.
The demonstration took place in the Pascagoula River. The LDUUV was launched and subsequently approach and was ‘captured’ by a cradle on the Pharos platform while it was being towed behind a small craft that simulated an amphibious ship at low speed.
Pharos was put in a tow position, then using a remote control, it was ballasted down in the trailing position allowing the LDUUV to navigate into Pharos. Once the unmanned vehicle was captured, Pharos was de-ballasted back up into a recovery and transport position. The demonstration also included ballasting down to launch the LDUUV after the capture.
Pharos has heavy duty wheels to allow it to manoeuvre in the well deck of an amphibious ship for stowage. Pharos can be rolled off the back of an amphibious ship while using the ship’s winches, to extend and retract the platform from the well deck. The Pharos design is scalable and reconfigurable to fit various unmanned underwater or unmanned surface vehicles.
Pharos was designed by HII and three main partners supported the development. The University of New Orleans, in conjunction with the US Navy, performed the initial model testing, and the prototype device was fabricated by Metal Shark in Louisiana.
HII is exploring modifications to other UUVs and participating in live demonstrations with the US fleet in the next year.