Groton-based company to develop lightweight launch, recovery system for Navy's underwater drones

Groton — LBI Inc., a research, development, engineering and manufacturing company that specializes in marine and naval systems, has been awarded a $5.4 million contract to design and manufacture a launch and recovery system for unmanned underwater vehicles for the Navy.

The five-year contract is for a lightweight system to launch and recover UUVs from 11-meter rigid-hull inflatable boats used by Naval Special Warfare teams. The new 500-pound system will be made out of carbon fiber composite and will replace the current system, which weighs 2,000 pounds.

Since it gets attached to the back side of the naval special warfare boats, the new system will allow those vessels to move with more agility through the water.

"I would say it's one of the more difficult things that we've done to make it work within that weight budget," LBI President Peter Legnos said during an interview Wednesday at the company's office in Groton, tucked away on North Road.

The system, which will have a crane-like function, will be designed to launch and recover the REMUS 600, which weighs 530 pounds and is nearly 11 feet long.

The REMUS 600 was the kind of UUV deployed and recovered from the Groton-based attack submarine USS North Dakota during a military operation in 2015 in a first for the Navy. Though the Navy had tested UUVs off submarines before, that was the first time one was successfully deployed during operations. The REMUS 600 was launched from a module on top of the boat called the dry deck shelter, which every Virginia-class submarine has the capability to carry.

In 2017, the Navy created its first-ever underwater drone squadron, officially called Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Squadron One. UUVs can carry out a number of different missions, including ones that are dangerous for military personnel, such as mine clearance and reconnaissance. They can also be used for more mundane or routine tasks, freeing up personnel to focus on more critical work.

LBI, which has 17 employees, has been awarded about $33 million in government contracts over the past five years.

In July, a former employee of LBI, who was accused of stealing trade secrets from the company, was found guilty by a jury in U.S. District Court in Hartford of six counts of theft of trade secrets, six counts of upload of trade secrets, and one count of transmission of trade secrets. The jury found another former employee, also accused of stealing trade secrets from the company, not guilty on all counts.

j.bergman@theday.com

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