Secret US underwater drone, Manta Ray spotted on Google Maps, later removed: Here's a look - Hindustan Times
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Secret US underwater drone, Manta Ray spotted on Google Maps, later removed: Here's a look

Jun 25, 2024 12:51 PM IST

Secret US Navy's Manta Ray aquatic drone was spotted in California, aiming to hover in low power mode and “will give the combatant commander an amplification.”

A top-secret autonomous submarine by the US Navy designed for long-term underwater missions was spotted when Google Maps users started exploring the coasts around Naval Base San Diego.

The cutting-edge Manta Ray submarine, the US Navy's latest autonomous underwater weapon(Northrop Grumman)
The cutting-edge Manta Ray submarine, the US Navy's latest autonomous underwater weapon(Northrop Grumman)

The eagle-eyed GMap swellers noticed an American prototype weapon submarine called the ‘Manta Ray’ at the Port Hueneme naval base in California on Sunday.

A Manta Ray spotted at Naval Base San Diego(Google Maps)
A Manta Ray spotted at Naval Base San Diego(Google Maps)

The autonomous vessel, aptly named after the sea creature for its sleek design and ability to anchor itself deep underwater while operating in low-power mode, was produced by Northrop Grumman as part of a US Navy initiative to develop long-range underwater weapons. The unmanned undersea vessel (UUV) “seeks to demonstrate critical technologies for a new class of long-duration, long-range, payload-capable UUVs.”

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DARPA is done with in-water testing Of Manta Ray

The Manta Ray is a highly advanced underwater drone capable of hibernating on the sea floor for extended periods without needing to refuel.

Dr. Kyle Woerner, Manta Ray program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), explained in a news release that the drone uses “efficient, buoyancy-driven gliding to move through the water.”

“Our successful, full-scale Manta-Ray testing validates the vehicle’s readiness to advance toward real-world operations,” he said.

The Navy spent over three months rigorously testing the craft off the coast of Southern California, according to the Telegraph.

DARPA said in a press statement that they are done with their field testing, which “demonstrated at-sea hydrodynamic performance, including submerged operations using all the vehicle’s modes of propulsion and steering: buoyancy, propellers, and control surfaces.”

One of the ‘Star Wars’ looking vessel's standout features is its modular design, which includes several payload bays of various sizes and types to accommodate a wide range of naval mission sets. This design also allows the craft to be disassembled and transported in standard shipping containers, removing the need for specialized port facilities.

“If successful, this new class of UUV will give the combatant commander an amplification of capacity without disrupting current operations by remaining independent of manned vessels and ports once deployed,” DARPA added.

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Defense analysts speculate that the US Navy's emphasis on developing drone technology is aimed at countering the submarine operations of Russia and China.

Russian underwater drones reportedly have a range of approximately 6,200 miles, can be armed with nuclear warheads, and can reach speeds of up to 100 knots, or about 115 mph.

Dr Kyle concluded his statement saying, “The combination of cross-country modular transportation, in-field assembly, and subsequent deployment demonstrates a first-of-kind capability for an extra-large UUV.”

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