According to the ONR, QED's role is to "address the Navy's operational gaps in surface ship and submarine maneuverability and acoustic signature. Quiet Electric Drives, or QEDs, are quiet, efficient and power dense. The primary objective of QED is demonstrating the utility of the motor as an actuator to obtain signature reduction performance while increasing tactical speed and maneuverability".
Its existence is known particularly via a 2005 court case in which four ethnic Chinese suspects have been accused of attempting to smuggle data from a U.S. defense contractor. An FBI affidavit stated QED to be "an extremely sensitive project ... considered by the Navy to be significant military equipment and therefore banned for export to countries specifically denied by the U.S. State Department, including the PRC (China)".