“It’s my privilege and honor to christen thee Sea Hunter!” DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar proclaimed, capping the christening ceremony last week for the technology demonstration vessel developed and built through the Agency’s Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program. She then broke a ceremonial “champagne” bottle (the contents were non-alcoholic) against the bow of the prototype ship, in front of approximately 100 guests, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work and senior U.S. Navy and government officials.
Taking place in Portland, Oregon, the event marked the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing to be conducted jointly with the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The christening signified the beginnings of an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel—one able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard. Potential missions include submarine tracking and countermine activities.
In September 2014, DARPA signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Office of Naval Research to jointly fund an extended test phase of an ACTUV prototype. DARPA will collaborate with ONR to fully test the capabilities of the vessel and several innovative payloads during open-water testing scheduled to begin this summer off the California coast after preliminary checkout and movement to San Diego. Pending the results of those tests, the program could transition to the U.S. Navy by 2018.
The event featured numerous senior DARPA, Defense Department and U.S. Navy guest speakers, each of whom shared their perspectives on ACTUV’s progress and the potential contributions it could make to national security. Excerpts from the speakers follow, in order of presentation:
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