Northrop Grumman team eyes developing technology for a 100-mile-per-hour submarine

ANNAPOLIS, Md., 18 Nov. 2006. Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are working with an industry team led by shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop a submarine capable of speeds as fast as 100 miles per hour submerged.

Nov 18th, 2006

ANNAPOLIS, Md., 18 Nov. 2006. Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are working with an industry team led by shipbuilder Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop a submarine capable of speeds as fast as 100 miles per hour submerged.

This superfast future submersible could be used for stable, controllable, high-speed underwater transport for littoral missions to move small groups of Navy personnel or specialized military cargo.

DARPA awarded the Northrop Grumman-led team a $5.4 million contract to determine the feasibility of using supercavitation technology for future high-speed submarines. Supercavitation creates a gas cavity between the vehicle surface and the water, thereby reducing drag and increasing vehicle speed. The DARPA program is called the Underwater Express.

In Phase 1 of the contract, which will last for 13 months, Northrop Grumman and its teammates will establish the technology basis for supercavitation transport through a series of testing and modeling activities, and produce a concept design for an underwater demonstrator vehicle.

Most of the work will be divided between Northrop Grumman's Undersea Systems facility in Annapolis, Md., and Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory in State College, Pa.

Other organizations contributing to the team include the University of Minnesota, the University of Maryland, the Navy's Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I., and BBN Technologies of Cambridge, Mass.

"Supercavitation technology has great potential to increase the speed of underwater vehicles," says John Golombeck, vice president of Naval and Surface Systems for Northrop Grumman's Systems Development and Technology business unit. "By drawing on university research into supercavitation physics and adapting this technology for real-world use, we are opening up new naval transport opportunities."

The contract comes with two 15-month options. Phase 2, worth as much as $17 million, would include continued technology research at a larger scale and establish the detailed design of the demonstrator vehicle.

Phase 3, worth as much as $23.4 million, would include building a Demonstration Super-fast Supercavitating Transport (DSST) vehicle which would operate at 100 knots for durations of up to 10 minutes. The potential value of all three phases is $45.8 million.

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