Huge US military 'Manta Ray' sea drone spotted on Google Earth at California naval base

  • A US military uncrewed underwater vehicle can be seen on Google Earth at a naval base in California.

  • The giant "Manta Ray" sea drone completed water testing in early 2024.

  • Footage of the drone in action was recently shared by maker Northrop Grumman.

The US military's giant "Manta Ray" sea drone has been spotted on Google Earth at a naval base in California.

Satellite images show the drone at Naval Base Ventura County in Oxnard, close to Los Angeles.

Footage of the drone taken during water testing earlier this year was also recently shared by manufacturer Northrop Grumman on YouTube.

The uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV) completed the "full-scale" testing off the coast of southern California in February and March, the Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced in May.

The new footage takes viewers on a "360-degree dive" with the vehicle, offering glimpses of its rounded shape and maneuverability.

A second video posted by the company also shows the drone's propulsion system.

"By incorporating numerous buoyancy engines, all working together efficiently, Manta Ray can operate for extended periods at a time and travel long distances at a variety of depths," the company says in the second video.

"It can even anchor to the sea floor and hibernate until needed," it adds.

While the Manta Ray's dimensions are not publicly available, Northrop Grumman classifies the drone as an "extra-large glider UUV."

The Manta Ray being towed in preparation for testing.
The Manta Ray.Courtesy of Northrop Grumman

The Manta Ray program, launched in 2020, aims to develop payload-capable, autonomous UUVs that can operate in "long-duration, long-range missions in ocean environments."

The drone's unique shape helps it save power and energy and carry "critical payloads or sensors" on lengthy missions, according to its manufacturer.

"Our successful, full-scale Manta Ray testing validates the vehicle's readiness to advance toward real-world operations after being rapidly assembled in the field from modular subsections," Kyle Woerner, DARPA program manager for Manta Ray, said following testing.

"The combination of cross-country modular transportation, in-field assembly, and subsequent deployment demonstrates a first-of-kind capability for an extra-large UUV," he added.

DARPA says it is now working on the next steps for testing the drone.

The Manta Ray off the coast of California this year.
The Manta Ray.Courtesy of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Sea drones have redefined traditional naval warfare in recent years. Their use in the Russia-Ukraine war has gained them widespread media attention.

The relatively cheap technology has scored major hits for Ukraine on Russian battleships, including the Sergei Kotov patrol ship and the Ivanovets corvette.

Ukraine has also used sea drones to attack key infrastructure like the Kerch Bridge, Russian President Vladimir Putin's prized link between the Russian mainland and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The threat to the Kerch Bridge appears to be significant enough for Russia to have started placing barges and other defenses in the area to reduce "the angles of approach for Ukrainian Unmanned Service Vehicles," the UK Ministry of Defence said.

Read the original article on Business Insider