Peraton has supported the U.S. Navy’s unmanned maritime systems programs since 2001, when the company began working with PMS 408, the program management office responsible for Explosive Ordnance Disposal. Over the past two decades, Peraton has provided sailors operating around the world with the critical tools and infrastructure to support all aspects of mission success, in the process becoming one of the nation’s top providers of unmanned maritime systems support to the Department of Defense.
Here, Joe Huhman, director, Unmanned Systems, shares his thoughts about new opportunities in the unmanned surface vehicles (USV) space and how Peraton’s strategic growth positions it to be the premier solutions provider.
How has Peraton’s growth changed the way the company engages in the unmanned maritime space?
In this industry, because of competition, a strong sustainment strategy is one that incorporates a robust integrated logistics services (ILS) package and employs a single contractor to manage the entire effort, cradle-to-grave. When you have contractors focused on just a single system or mission, there’s the risk of either a gap or an outright loss of knowledge and experience.
Our goal was to position Peraton as the government’s single point of contact, responsible for making the different pieces of these very complex unmanned systems work together seamlessly. That’s crucial, especially when delivering first-of-its-kind capabilities to a fleet. So how do we go about that?
In 2021, we opened a new research facility in Panama City, FL, near the Naval Surface Warfare Center. It’s something that enables us to both extend our scope and refine our approaches. We can use this facility to support new system integration at the customer’s doorstep, giving them increased visibility on production and providing better support for government testing.
When you look at the position we’re in after our growth and acquisitions, Peraton is now a true end-to-end provider. We’ve been able to leverage our unmatched thought leadership, experience, and integrated teams to increase our capability in a way that differentiates us. We now have a footprint in every single domain within unmanned systems, from seabed to space.
What are the most exciting opportunities right now with small Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV), such as the MCM USV?
We’re focused on the Navy’s Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) payload delivery system programs, which we see as an opportunity to bring Peraton’s unmatched unmanned systems expertise to bear on critical Mine Warfare missions.
There’s a prime production opportunity to develop the payload delivery systems for this new fleet. These are systems that will be installed on unmanned boats towing minesweeping, mine hunting, and mine neutralization systems, which we are intimately familiar with.
For the last nine years, we’ve been operating and maintaining the prototype MCM USVs in Bahrain. It’s a squadron of four 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats, performing important mine countermeasures missions. We have a permanent team of 20 that is responsible for all the operations, maintenance, and logistics. They integrate new components, do the test evaluation, and perform the daily operations of these systems—which includes mission planning, execution, and post-mission analysis. Through this experience, we’ve seen and solved many of the issues MCM USV and its payload delivery systems will face, so we’re excited about the opportunity to compete here.
That’s a bit of a departure, right? Peraton is not known as a producer of things.
That’s true. With the acquisition of Peraton Remotec, our unmanned ground vehicle business, we’ve gained the additional capability and capacity to perform production. From a manufacturing perspective, we now have in-house the global leader in mobile robot systems for hazardous duty operations. This is a team that military, law enforcement, state and local bomb squads, and other first responders have relied on to support their most challenging and dexterous operations for more than three decades. So while Peraton was not known for making “widgets” or bending metal, we are experts in the mission set and have subject matter experts that know every aspect of the equipment, moving into production is a logical step for us.
Beyond that, we believe that our hands-on, real-world experience has allowed us to develop strategic relationships with multiple partners that have the exact types of solutions and innovations our customers require; we’re especially excited about working with one particular partner on some upcoming USV work, a team that understands the challenge the Navy is facing in this space. It’s a perfect partnership of production experience and cradle-to-grave engineering support services.
How do these changes align with what the military is doing? Are these contracts in line with where Peraton wants to go in the marketplace?
In many ways, unmanned systems will define the future of military missions. Over the next several decades, the Pentagon has plans to invest heavily in unmanned systems, expecting to have over 150 unmanned ships by 2045, and the U.S. is committed to remaining the world leader in the unmanned space.
Whether you’re talking about applications in artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) or the Internet of Things (IoT), unmanned systems are a Peraton strong suit, and we look forward to continuing innovation in the unmanned space, wherever that might lead. Add that to our next-generation cyber capabilities and agile development we have across our company and we’re in a position to offer true end-to-end solutions in the years to come.