New submarine-hunting drone is union built in Oregon

A certification and testing launch of ACTUV took place Jan. 29 at Vigor Industrial at the Portland shipyard on Swan Island. Vigor owns Oregon Iron Works.
A certification and testing launch of ACTUV took place Jan. 29 at Vigor Industrial at the Portland shipyard on Swan Island. Vigor owns Oregon Iron Works.

“Sea Hunter,” the first-ever Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), was built by members of Iron Workers Shopmen’s Local 516 and IBEW Local 48 at Oregon Iron Works in Clackamas.

The robotic surface vessel (i.e. drone) is scheduled to be christened April 7 at Caruthers Landing, 110 SE Caruthers Street, Portland. The Office of Naval Research and the Space and Naval Systems Warfare Command will then conduct sea-trials over the next 18 months to test its long-range tracking and self-driving functions.

The ship is a small part of the Pentagon’s $18 billion Third Offset strategy, which is devised to help the U.S. maintain superiority over rising military powers like China and Russia.

Jared Adams, chief of media relations for the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), told the Labor Press via email that he wasn’t able to provide an interview, but he did send photos and information about the vessel.

The 140-ton, 132-foot long ship is the largest unmanned surface vessel ever built. Designed to operate autonomously for 60 to 90 days straight, its primary objective is to track enemy submarines in shallow waters. In addition to locating spying submarines, it also could play a role in supplying other U.S naval vehicles and running logistics in operations.

And because it is unmanned, the ACTUV (pronounced ‘active’) is relatively cheap to operate — between $15,000 and $20,000 per day, according to  Sea Magazine. In contrast, a destroyer costs about $700,000 per day to operate.

The prime contractor of the program is Leidos, a national security, health, and specialty engineering company. Leidos initially contracted with Christ- ensen Shipyard, Ltd., a non-union yacht builder in Vancouver, Washington, to construct the hull, under the supervision of Oregon Iron Works. Christensen closed unexpectedly in February 2015, and the ACTUV was moved to Vigor Industrial at the Portland shipyard on Swan Island. Vigor owns Oregon Iron Works.

Local 516 Business Manager Phil Casciato confirmed that his members worked on the ACTUV, but other than that, he said he couldn’t discuss anything about the project.

Sea Hunter

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