US Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro walks with officials from HD Hyundai Heavy Industries. (Photo courtesy of US Navy)

WASHINGTON — Venture capital-backed US defense contractor Anduril Industries and top South Korean shipbuilder HD Hyundai Heavy Industries have announced a strategic partnership focused on designing and producing autonomous naval systems.

“Together, our companies will define a new maritime arsenal of democracy — one that both restores naval capacity through modern shipbuilding and mass manufacturing practices, while also enhancing naval capability through cutting-edge mission autonomy, artificial intelligence, and software,” Christian Brose, Anduril’s chief strategy officer, said of the announcement in an April 13 company statement.

The partnership will also bring each company “greater access” to the defense market of the other’s respective nation, according to the statement, and aims to make systems for the US and South Korean miltiaries, as well as “allies and partners.”

“With the rise of autonomous naval systems as a significant component for future maritime defense, we expect to pioneer the market with our warship-building capacity and leading defense technology combined,” said Won-ho Joo, chief operating officer of naval and special ship business unit at HD Hyundai, said in the same statement.

The announcement between the two companies comes as the US Navy’s top civilian has been making candid efforts to bring Japanese and South Korean shipbuilders into the US market.

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro in late February visited multiple shipbuilders in Asia, HD Hyundai included, ready to pitch them on investing in facilities stateside.

“In each of these engagements, I brought to the table a simple, yet profound opportunity: invest in America. I was enormously gratified by the strong interest expressed by the leaders of each of these world-class shipbuilders in establishing U.S. subsidiaries and investing in shipyards in the United States,” he said in a statement following one visit.

The SECNAV has since lauded the precision of those companies at public events, such as last week’s Sea Air Space Exposition, for their ability to anticipate when a ship would be ready for delivery down to a single day — a stark contrast with the US Navy’s schedules which often predicts deliveries in fiscal quarters.