Local companies to work on unmanned vessel

It is aimed at stalking enemy submarines

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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A global defense company has received a $58 million contract to build an unmanned vessel that stalks enemy submarines, and two companies in the Portland-Vancouver region will benefit.

McLean, Va.-based SAIC Inc. received the contract — issued by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a unit of the U.S. Department of Defense — to design, build and test a new unmanned vessel "with the ability to track a quiet diesel-electric submarine overtly for months" with "minimal human input," according to SAIC's news release.

The company said "key teammates" on the project include Oregon Iron Works — a Clackamas, Ore.-based company that operates a fabrication plant on the Columbia riverfront in Vancouver — and Vancouver-based Christensen Shipyards.

Those two companies will be involved in "ship design, construction and propulsion," SAIC said. NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab and Carnegie Mellon University also are involved in the project, SAIC said.

Oregon Iron Works and Christensen referred inquiries to SAIC, which could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The contract awarded to SAIC has a three-year period of performance for phases two and three, with a total contract value of $58 million and a $1 million 18-month option for phase four.

SAIC conducted conceptual design work in the first phase of the unmanned vessel project.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com.