WASHINGTON — While the floor at the annual Navy League Sea-Air-Space exposition is always packed with displays, it’s unusual to see lines forming to view any one attraction. But a coal-black, sinister-looking undersea vessel on display here for the first time has clearly become a star, drawing lines and crowds milling around the always-busy Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) booth.
The new celebrity is the Proteus, a submersible undersea vehicle created by what is now HII’s Undersea Solution Group (USG), Battelle and Bluefin Robotics. The craft came under HII’s purview in late January with the purchase of the Columbia Group’s Engineering Solutions Group, an outfit with long experience building swimmer delivery vehicles for the US Navy.
The Proteus is unique, designed to be manually crewed or to function as an autonomous, unmanned underwater vehicle.
The craft was built in 2012 at the Group’s facility in Panama City, Florida, said Ross Lindman, senior vice president for operations with the USG. Since becoming operational, he said, the Proteus has been evaluated by a number of Navy entities, including the Naval Research Laboratory, the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, the Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, California, and the Space and Warfare Systems Command.