Growing up in Pascagoula as a kid, although it wasn’t a traditional “submarine town” such as Pearl, New London, or Bremerton, we had a lot of submarine tie-ins. After all, the USS Drum (SS-228) museum was just a 40-minute drive over to Mobile Bay (and every kid at school had crawled through her a few times), U-166–– the only German submarine sunk in the Gulf of Mexico– was lost about 50 miles to the Southwest with a Coast Guard seaplane from Biloxi often credited with taking part in her demise, CSS Hunley was crafted and tested in Mobile and the tale was often retold in every museum on the coast, and Ingalls had “submarine races” that the locals would turn out for in the 1960s and 70s when eight of the 37 Sturgeon-class attack boats were built there and would conduct trials off The Point. It was no surprise that the brand new Virginia-class boat, USS Mississippi (SSN-782), paid a visit to the Pascagoula a few years back for her commissioning ceremony in the Pascagoula River.
My great grandfather, who served in the USCG Beach Patrol in Pascagoula, had often told of finding empty cans and food wrappers with German markings on them in the sand along the Barrier Islands during the war. Probably a dozen logical explanations for that other than U-boat beach parties, but not in the eyes of an amazed little war nerd like myself.
Speaking of odd events that can’t be explained…
About that UFO…
On a more personal note, I’ve always thought the infamous 1973 Pascagoula UFO incident, one of the few that involved a craft rising from the sea, was actually a Soviet mini-sub and crew visiting the harbor to take notes on the construction at Ingalls– where the whole Spruance-class of destroyers and all of the early LHAs was under construction around that time in addition to the Sturgeons.
Meet Pharos and Proteus
And after a long break, a submarine of sorts has recently returned to the Pascagoula River, prowling just off Ingalls off The Point in the same waters that Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker claimed they were abducted during the “submarine races” era.
PASCAGOULA, Miss., June 13, 2022 — All-domain defense and technologies partner HII (NYSE:HII) announced today the successful demonstration of capabilities enabling HII-built amphibious warships to launch, operate with and recover HII-built large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (LDUUV).
The research and development initiative between HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and Mission Technologies divisions is among a portfolio of corporate-led and funded internal research and development efforts aimed at advancing mission-critical technology solutions in support of HII’s national security customers.
“HII is committed to advancing the future of distributed maritime operations and demonstrating our capability to support unmanned vehicles on amphibious ships,” said Kari Wilkinson, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, which hosted and partnered in the demonstration. “I am very proud of our team’s initiative to strengthen the flexibility of the ships we build by anticipating the challenges and opportunities that exist for our customers.”
“This is a great example of how HII can leverage expertise across divisions to develop unique solutions for customers,” said Andy Green, president of Mission Technologies. “HII is focused on growing critical enabling technologies, like unmanned systems and AI/ML data analytics, to help further enhance the capabilities of our national security platforms.”
HII-built San Antonio-class amphibious warships have unique well decks that can be flooded to launch and recover various maritime platforms. The U.S. Navy has previously demonstrated the ability to recover spacecraft from the amphibious warship well deck.
HII’s Advanced Technology Group, comprised of employees from across the company, performed the launch and recovery demonstration with a prototype platform called Pharos and HII’s LDUUV Proteus. The demonstration took place in the Pascagoula River.
The demonstration involved having the LDUUV approach and be captured by the Pharos cradle, while Pharos was being towed behind a small craft that simulated an amphibious ship at low speed. Pharos was put in a tow position, then using a remote control, it was ballasted down in the trailing position allowing the LDUUV to navigate into Pharos. Once the unmanned vehicle was captured, Pharos was deballasted back up into a recovery and transport position. The demonstration also included ballasting down to launch the LDUUV after the capture.
Pharos is outfitted with heavy-duty wheels to allow its transport maneuverability within the well deck of an amphibious ship for stowage on the vehicle decks. Pharos can be rolled off the back of an amphibious ship while using the ship’s existing winch capabilities to extend and retract the platform from the well deck. The Pharos design is scalable and reconfigurable to fit various unmanned underwater or unmanned surface vehicles.
The Pharos design was conducted by HII, and three main partners supported the development. The University of New Orleans, in conjunction with the Navy, performed the initial model testing, and the prototype device was fabricated by Metal Shark in Louisiana.
HII is currently exploring modifications for other UUVs and participating in live demonstrations with the fleet within the next year. HII will use results from the Pharos demonstration to further mature concepts and continue to develop innovative national security solutions.