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In 2016, Leidos (NYSE:LDOS) did an amazing thing.
Asked by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — DARPA, the Pentagon’s “mad scientists” division — to design and build a fully automated robotic warship capable of locating and tracking enemy submarines, Leidos got the thing designed, built, and in the water in just four months. The new warship was dubbed the unmanned surface vehicle (USV) Sea Hunter, and the 132-foot-long trimaran vessel quickly embarked on a years-long series of tests, including an entirely autonomous voyage from San Diego to Hawaii and back last year, and a stint attached to a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group (Surface Development Squadron 1, or SURFDEVRON-1) in January.
By all accounts, the tests have gone swimmingly — so well, in fact, that the U.S. Navy has asked Leidos to build it a second Sea Hunter-class warship, and made plans to convert two commercial fast supply vessels into a new class of large USV (in a program most excellently named “Ghost Fleet Overlord”).
Now the Navy is moving forward with plans to build even more autonomous warships to help it reach its goal of creating a 355-ship navy. There’s just one problem for Leidos: Although it …
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