Ross Wilkers


Inside Huntington Ingalls' plan to grow its unmanned business

Huntington Ingalls Industries is extending further into the unmanned underwater vehicle market with its agreement to acquire marine robotic technology maker Hydroid for $350 million and collaborate with the latter’s soon-to-be former parent on mutual opportunities.

The U.S.’ largest military shipbuilder, Huntington Ingalls already has a high profile in the unmanned arena through its partnership with Boeing on the Navy’s Orca program to build large unmanned submarines. HII also makes the Proteus platform, a large submersible that can operate in both manned and unmanned modes.

The acquisition of Hydroid from its former Norway-based parent Kongsberg Maritime will not just contribute to existing programs like those aforementioned but also bring a new base of technology to its new home, said HII’s technical solutions group president Andy Green.

“With Hydroid, we have a very, very strong position in the small and medium piece of the market,” Green told me Tuesday. “It gives us a lot of capabilities and a lot of technology across the spectrum that we can use to provide the best solution to the Navy customer.”

Pocasset, Massachusetts-based Hydroid was founded in 2001 and designs its flagship Remus autonomous vehicle for defense, commercial and marine research missions.

HII and Kongsberg have also formed a strategic alliance to jointly market naval and maritime products and services to the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, other federal agencies and potentially global customers. Green said the joint effort will include unmanned vehicles themselves and other maritime technologies.

Including Hydroid, substantially all of HII’s unmanned work resides in Technical Solutions -- the company’s government services segment stood up in 2016 through an integration of seven other businesses and subsequently made two other acquisitions since.

The roots of Huntington Ingalls’ push to be a leader in the unmanned domain, just like that of manned ships, trace back to its 2015 acquisition of Columbia Group’s engineering solutions division that included the Proteus vehicle. Green told me that was “our entree into the unmanned business.”

That deal and HII’s subsequent activity is all aimed at capturing a large share of an unmanned maritime market widely expected to grow as the Navy increasingly looks to go down that path.

“As the technology develops and you see more products and more advanced technology hit the market, people start to see more uses for this technology as it gets out there, as we get more experience, we get more technology demonstration out there,” Green said.

“They’re really starting to see that unmanned systems... don’t replace the existing capital assets but extend the reach of the capital assets,” Green added. “If you take some of the missions that surface ships and submarines are conducting today, you can essentially add a multiplier to that by using UUVs.”

Huntington Ingalls expects to close the acquisition by the end of March. The company says the deal’s $350 million value will be reduced by tax benefits estimated at around $50 million.

About the Author

Ross Wilkers is a senior staff writer for Washington Technology. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @rosswilkers. Also connect with him on LinkedIn.

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