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NEWS | Feb. 16, 2022

NUWC Division Newport, PEO team christen Snakehead UUV at Narragansett Bay Test Facility

By NUWC Division Newport Public Affairs

The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport and the Program Executive Office Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) hosted a vehicle christening for the Snakehead Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV) at the Narragansett Bay Test Facility on Feb. 2.

Snakehead is a modular, reconfigurable, multi-mission LDUUV deployed from submarine large ocean interfaces, with a government-owned architecture, mission autonomy and vehicle software. Deployable from the dry deck shelter of a submarine, Snakehead provides guidance and control, navigation, situational awareness, propulsion, maneuvering and sensors in support of the Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment mission. Snakehead is innovative in the areas of hull materials, lithium-ion battery certification, and submarine launch and recovery. 

Christopher DelMastro, head of Division Newport’s Undersea Warfare Platforms and Payload Integration Department, served as master of ceremonies for the vehicle’s christening.

“During the winter of 2004, a UUV team from NUWC was at this very pier demonstrating the utility of large vehicles to inform the Navy’s future unmanned vision,” DelMastro said. “Today we have a new team — the Snakehead team — comprised of talented individuals representing the warfare centers, university laboratories and industry. It was very challenging at times and it was a long and difficult path to get here, but today you succeeded in delivering many firsts for the Navy.”

DelMastro then turned the program over to some of the Snakehead program’s biggest champions.

Capt. Pete Small, the program manager for Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406), expressed his appreciation of the Snakehead team as they get ready to move into the next phase of development.

“Today is about the team. I’m glad you could be here to enjoy this. It’s special for many reasons,” Small said. “Ever since joining in 2018 I have been blown away by the team of subject matter experts and the complexity and technical rigor of the project.”

Small’s parting thoughts for the team: “Believe in the team … be resilient … be persistent. This is a long game and you have to stay in it. The expertise gained will be the Navy’s enduring benefit.”

Division Newport leadership echoed Small’s gratitude and pointed to the Snakehead program’s role in the larger U.S. Navy mission.

Commanding Officer (CO) Capt. Chad Hennings said that Snakehead is one of the first steps on the path to keeping Navy warfighters out of harm’s way.

“You did that. You should be proud of what you have done. I’m proud to be associated with this as your CO,” Hennings said.

“What you do helps NUWC, the Navy, and the nation,” added Technical Director Ronald Vien, Senior Executive Service.

Another Snakehead champion, Dorothy Engelhardt, director of Unmanned Systems at Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Ship Programs, was celebrated with the team.

“I’m continuously cheerleading for unmanned systems and making it a priority for the Navy,” Engelhardt said. “You are innovators. You are engineers of the future and your work is valued.”

Representing the Chief of Naval Operations Director of Undersea Warfare was Adam Outlaw, head of the Subsea and Seabed Warfare Branch, who has worked on trying to establish, resource and defend a Large Displacement program for the past 14 years through various budget pressures and mission priorities.

“This program is older than my oldest kid. This is a big deal for me,” Outlaw said. “I can’t wait to see LDUUV in the water.”

Performing the honors of christening the vehicle as a sign of good luck on all future missions was Cheryl Mierzwa, Division Newport’s technical program manager for Snakehead.

“This team has worked so hard to get us to this date,” Mierzwa said before breaking a bottle of champagne on the vehicle’s bow. I’m looking forward to demonstrating Snakehead’s capabilities so we can see what it can do.”

The PEO USC mission is to design, build, maintain, and modernize the Navy’s expanding family of unmanned maritime systems, mine warfare systems, and small surface combatants.

NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.

NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher's Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.

Join our team! NUWC Division Newport, one of the 20 largest employers in Rhode Island, employs a diverse, highly trained, educated, and skilled workforce. We are continuously looking for engineers, scientists, and other STEM professionals, as well as talented business, finance, logistics and other support experts who wish to be at the forefront of undersea research and development. Please connect with NUWC Division Newport Recruiting at this site- https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NUWC-Newport/Career-Opportunities/ and follow us on LinkedIn @NUWC-Newport and on Facebook @NUWCNewport.