Huntington Ingalls' Hampton Center is awarded first unmanned submarine work
By DAVE RESS | The Daily Press | Published: January 12, 2021
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — Workers in Huntington Ingalls Industries’ new Hampton drone facility will assemble hull structures for the Navy’s new Orca unmanned submarine.
HII employees began working in the first building of the company’s Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence on Dec. 28, the company said.
Known formally as an “extra large unmanned undersea vehicle,” the Orca will be a 51-foot-long vessel, which can operate on its own for up to 6,500 nautical miles, independently of any mother ship.
Boeing Co. won the overall contract to build five Orca vessels, for a total of $274 million. Late last year, it won an $11 million increase to study and develop additional uses, payloads and deployment scenarios for the vessels, which the Navy has said could be used to clear mines, as well as for anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare and strike missions,
The vessels are to be delivered by December 2022.
“Opening this initial facility immediately expands our unmanned systems capability and helps support the increasing needs of our customers who defend our national security,” said Andy Green, executive vice president of HII and president of HII’s Technical Solutions division.
HII’s Hampton Center of Excellence will eventually employ 250 people in two buildings. The second, totaling 135,000 square feet, will be much larger than the just-completed, 22,000-square-foot building. It is slated to be completed by the end of this year and will be used for unmanned systems prototyping, production and testing.
HII is investing roughly $50 million in the Hampton center, which is near the intersection of Commander Shepard Boulevard and North Campus Parkway.
Over the past year, HII has acquired two companies that make unmanned vessels — a technology that the Navy says will be increasingly important in the decades to come.
Last month, the Department of Defense released a long-term shipbuilding plan that called for 119 unmanned surface ships and 24 unmanned submarines by fiscal year 2045.
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