A Mississippi contractor has secured $35 million dollars to help build a next-generation warship in West Harrison County, aimed to assist military personnel in combat, officials said this week in a press conference.

According to United States Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the U.S. Office of Naval Research has contracted with Leidos as a partner with Gulfport-based United States Marine, Inc. (USMI) to help develop and construct an unmanned warship — the Sea Hunter II — a second in a series of self-driving ships built to hunt for enemy submarines.

“This particular type of ship is a becoming critical component of the Navy’s efforts to leverage cutting-edge technologies and protect American power on the seas,” Wicker, a senior member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, said.

“I am proud of the work our state’s shipbuilders are doing to provide our sailors with a powerful tool to track and destroy underwater threats.”

Sea Hunter

The christening of the original Sea Hunter. The new Sea Hunter will begin its self-guided voyage here in West Harrison County. Photo courtesy of Steve Dipaol

The Sea Hunter series is being developed to operate independently for months at a time tracking submarines and intercepting enemy mines. While the first Sea Hunter vessel predominantly hunted submarines, Navy officials hope Sea Hunter II may also be used for surveillance, logistics support, and performing complex missions with little to no human interaction.

Sherman Necaise, a local veteran, believes Sea Hunter II has the potential to limit the loss of American lives.

“Saving lives is probably the biggest thing,” Necaise said. “If they can build something that can help protect America and save human lives in combat, that would be great.”

Leidos and USMI are expected to complete work in 2020. The ship will primarily be built in the cities of Long Beach and Gulfport.

Story By Kristin Pacheco