GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - For two South Mississippi companies, the future of USVs, or unmanned surface vehicles, is living and breathing at a plant in Gulfport. The Sea Hunter II is a cutting-edge autonomous vessel designed by Leidos with national security priorities.
“Our customer for Sea Hunter I and II is the office of naval research. They’re really prototype systems for ocean crossing, unmanned systems for the Navy, and that’s part of the whole project right now is how the Navy can use these unmanned systems in conjunction with the fleet," said Leidos Business Area Manager Bob McCummins.
With autonomous vehicle operation becoming more of a priority throughout the military, Leidos is working to get and keep the best and brightest minds. They do that by partnering with universities across the south.
“It is very easy for us to recruit and retain out super-talented engineers. This type of project is so exciting. We hire from Ole Miss, USM, of course Mississippi State, LSU and University of South Alabama," McCummins said.
Keeping a steady pipeline of work, according to vessel builder United States Marine Incorporated, is key to sustaining economic and job growth in South Mississippi.
“The more you build quantities of scale, will lower the cost to the government and to the taxpayer, but will increase jobs in Mississippi. So, as these vessels are figured out, of what they’re gonna do in the Navy, they’ll be hopefully purchasing more," said USMI CEO Barry Dreyfus.
While the Sea Hunter II is performing mission-critical tasks for the U.S. Navy, it means big things for the economy and jobs right here in South Mississippi.
“Our partnership with our local military, the state port of Gulfport really brings home this entire blue economy that Gov. (Phil) Bryant really was championing and it helps to bring additional jobs to the Coast having these types of programs,” McCummins said.
Because of those relationships, sea trials for the Sea Hunter II will take place in the Mississippi Sound and are scheduled to take place as early as September.