Surface Forces: American Manta Ray UUV


June 1, 2024: In the United States, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has developed a UUV (Unmanned Underwater Vessel) called Manta Ray. The Manta Ray is a species of fish related to sharks that weigh over a ton and can live up to fifty years in the wild. Manta Rays are considered one of the most intelligent species of fish.

The DARPA Manta Ray is also smart and programmed to operate autonomously. These Manta Rays weigh up to 30 tons when carrying their maximum load of ten tons of cargo. Manta Ray is 18 meters long, six meters wide and three meters high. Power is supplied by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries which on a full charge enable the Manta Ray to travel 3,000 kilometers, at a speed of 18 kilometers an hour, while submerged. That’s nearly six weeks at sea. Manta Ray uses sonar, radar, a video camera, and other sensors for navigation. Manta Ray periodically comes to the surface to report its position, time of arrival, and receive any new orders from its human controllers.

Manta Ray operates like a fish as it has enough air inside it to achieve neutral buoyancy underwater and travel accurately and in a timely manner to its destination. That could be from the west coast of the United States to someplace in the western Pacific. A new American military strategy is based on having small military detachments on many islands. These detachments are often trying to remain hidden and supplies must arrive without being detected. Manta Ray can do that.

A Manta Ray UUV can be disassembled and the components will fit into standard shipping containers that can be transported by air, ship, railway, or truck to wherever it is needed. DARPA is trying to develop a sufficiently flexible onboard navigation and decision making system to enable Manta Ray to operate autonomously for long periods. Since Manta Ray is difficult for current ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) equipment to detect, UUV can deliver supplies to briefly surfaced submarines, ships, or bases in contested waters. DARPA wants to get some of these new UUVs operational and see what the army, navy, air force or marines can do with them. China has also developed UUVs it uses to monitor surface and subsurface operations in the South China Sea.




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