Hugh Lessig, Daily Press, Jan 30
Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc., which builds nuclear-powered submarines in Newport News, has acquired a Florida company that designs and constructs unmanned underwater vehicles.
The shipbuilding giant has purchased the Engineering Solutions Division of The Columbia Group, headquartered in Panama City Beach, Fla. The company has 30 employees and builds specialized manned and unmanned undersea vehicles. Its primary customer is the U.S. Navy, but it works for militaries around the world.
HII announced the acquisition Friday in a news release. Engineering Solutions will operate as Undersea Solutions Group, an HII subsidiary. It will report to Newport News Shipbuilding's Submarine and Fleet Support division.
Matt Mulherin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding, said the Florida company's expertise "is a natural extension" of the submarine work that goes on now at Newport News, one of only two U.S. shipyards that builds the nuclear-powered, Virginia-class submarine. The other yard is General Dynamics Electric Boat of Groton, Conn.
Engineering Solutions builds and maintains swimmer delivery vehicles (SDVs) for both U.S. and foreign military use. SDVs can be used by special forces for covert missions.
It designed, developed and operates the Proteus, which operates autonomously as either a manned or unmanned craft. The Proteus was developed in partnership with Battelle Memorial Institute. It used technology from Bluefin Robotics, a subsidiary of Battelle.
In 2012, Proteus was described by Wired Magazine as a "beastly drone" that could further the Navy's goal of developing large, underwater drones that can operate for months on end. It is a 25-foot, cylindrical shaped craft that can carry a pair of 220-pound bombs and 400 pounds of cargo, or six Navy SEALs when running in manned mode, the magazine reported.
The Florida company is also the sole U.S. maker of the Pluto autonomous mine-hunting unmanned underwater vehicle, which it manufactures under a Swiss license for foreign military sales.