Unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) have inherent operational and tactical advantages such as stealth and surprise. UUV size, weight and volume are constrained by the handling, launch and recovery systems on their host platforms. Mission performance typically sets the range, endurance, speed, and depth requirements, however the UUV range is limited by the amount of energy available for propulsion and the power required for a given underwater speed. Current state-of-the-art energy sources are limited by safety and certification requirements for host platforms.
This means that for a given speed, range, and volume necessary for payloads and electronics, vehicle size is proportional to energy needed for the mission envelope. While designers can modify this envelope by reducing hydrodynamic drag, improving lift-to-drag performance, or by improving the volumetric energy density of energy sources, the volume and weight needed for systems to reduce drag or improve lift-to-drag in a fixed-size vehicle also reduces the volume and weight available for energy.
In 2015, DARPA launched the Blue Wolf program that seeks to break free of these limitations by focusing on energy, hydrodynamic lift, and drag-reduction technologies. Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. were involved to develop revolutionary underwater propulsion and drag-reduction technologies to enable manned and unmanned military undersea vehicles to move through the water faster and more energy-efficiently than ever before.
The Blue Wolf program will develop and demonstrate integrated underwater vehicle prototypes able to operate at speed and range combinations previously unachievable in fixed-size platforms, while retaining traditional volume and weight fractions for payloads and electronics, DARPA officials say.
The initial reference architecture consists of a 21-inch-diameter vehicle with volume and weight reserved for baseline guidance, control, electronic systems, and payload section. The vehicle will use a baseline electric drive and conventional fin control.
Blue Wolf Program
The Blue Wolf program seeks to develop and demonstrate an integrated UUV capable of operating at speed-range combinations previously unachievable on current representative platforms, while retaining traditional volume and weight fractions for payloads and electronics.
Blue Wolf intends to focus on rapid development and maturation of novel energy, lift and drag-reduction technologies within an existing vehicle.
Dynamic lift and drag reduction refers to revolutionary technologies for significant drag reduction, such as dynamic lift from winglets, body shaping, coatings, and novel drag reduction technologies applicable over various range and speed combinations to improve system energy efficiency.
Hybrid energy systems refers to approaches such as thermal, electrochemical, or energy-harvesting with two or more energy sources to improve energy efficiency measured in Watt hours per mile. DARPA researchers say they plan to explore thermal and electric sources like fuel cells and batteries that can fit within an undersea vehicle system module.
In the first one-year phase of the program, the Blue Wolf contractors will design component and subsystem technologies for dynamic lift, drag reduction, and energy systems. An optional second phase will develop modules, and demonstrate safety, performance, and readiness for integration.
DARPA is collaborating with the Office of Naval Research and Naval Sea Systems Command to achieve program objectives and ensure compatibility with existing manned-platform safety requirements and future Navy technology developments. The program aims to culminate in a series of at-sea demonstrations and transition to the Navy.
Blue wolf awards
Blue Wolf contractors are the Boeing Defense, Space & Security segment in Huntington Beach, Calif.; the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training segment in Riviera Beach, Fla.; Applied Physical Sciences and the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass.
NUWC officials awarded a $2.5 million DARPA Blue Wolf contract to the Boeing Defense, Space & Security segment in Huntington Beach, Calif., on 11 Sept. 2015; and awarded a $2.5 million DARPA Blue Wolf contract to the Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training segment in Riviera Beach, Fla., on 17 Sept. 2015.
On the Blue Wolf program, Boeing and Lockheed Martin join the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Mass., which won a $3.7 million Blue Wolf contract in August, and Applied Physical Sciences (APS) Corp. in Groton, Conn., which won a $3.1 million Blue Wolf contract last July. Separately, Boeing won a $126,845 Blue Wolf contract last June.
Applied Physical Sciences continues effort to develop UUV undersea energy batteries in Blue Wolf project
Unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) power experts at Applied Physical Sciences (APS) Corp. in Groton, Conn., are moving forward with a project to develop a highly customized high-performance battery system prototype to enable manned and unmanned undersea vehicles to move through the water faster and more energy-efficiently than ever before.
Officials of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Keyport, Wash., announced a $992,000 contract modification to Applied Physical Sciences in Sep 2018 to continue the company’s effort to develop a UUV batter prototype as part of the Blue Wolf program of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va.
The NUWC Keyport Division is administering contracting for the DARPA Blue Wolf program, which aims toward at-sea testing of undersea energy, hydrodynamic lift, and drag-reduction technologies.
Applied Physical Sciences has been involved since 2015 in a part of the Blue Wolf program that seeks to develop approaches to hybrid energy systems development such as thermal, electrochemical, or energy-harvesting with two or more energy sources to improve energy efficiency measured in Watt hours per mile.
Applied Physical Sciences experts have been exploring thermal and electric sources like fuel cells and batteries that can fit within an undersea vehicle system module.
The company is developing a high-performance battery system prototype customized for the future Blue Wolf unmanned undersea vehicle. Last January was awarded a contract modification that increased Blue Wolf contract ceiling from $4.2 million to $5.8 million.
In addition to hybrid energy systems, the DARPA Blue Wolf project focuses on new enabling technologies for dynamic lift and drag reduction systems leading to a fast, low-drag, and energy-efficient undersea vehicle that will provide not only insights into the strengths, weaknesses, and risks in the prototype vehicle, but also provide alternative design strategies and concepts of operations.
Blue Wolf testing is on existing undersea vehicles at the U.S. Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) in Newport, R.I., and at the Penn State Applied Research Laboratory in Reston, Va. NUWC manages safety, certification, and vehicle development, while Penn State provides technical expertise.
The Blue Wolf program envisions a 21-inch-diameter vehicle with volume and weight reserved for baseline guidance, control, electronic systems, and payload section. The vehicle will use a baseline electric drive and conventional fin control.