In a surprise win, the Navy awarded Bollinger Shipyards a $14 million contract on April 8 for production of the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) over two other bids.

One of the bidders is believed to be Textron Systems [TXT], which has worked with the Navy for years in MSM USV experimentation via the company’s Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV) vehicle towing the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) system. The company did not return calls by deadline regarding its participation in the competition. 

The contract covers production, engineering services and other direct costs for an initial three MCM USVs. It also includes options to procure up to six more vehicles in the base year and options for up to 24 additional vehicles that, if exercised, would raise the total value to $123 million.

The MCM USV is part of the UISS program that uses the USV to tow various payloads including a Raytheon Technologies [RTX] AN/AQS-20C sonar to detect, localize and classify bottom, close-tethered moored and volume moored mines. 

MCM USV and UISS are intended to replace the legacy Avenger-class Mine Countermeasures Ships and MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters in the MCM mission set.

In 2020, the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants granted UISS Milestone C, allowing it to move to low-rate initial production (LRIP). At the time, the Navy said it planned to exercise options to procure three LRIP systems using an engineering and manufacturing development contract with Textron (Defense Daily, Feb, 27, 2020).

The Navy originally awarded Textron an EMD contract in 2014 and previously exercised options for two vehicles delivered in 2018 used in UISS testing.

According to the Navy’s solicitation notice, the MCM USV will be a “build-to-print” contract for the ship or shore-launched open architecture surface vehicle capable of autonomous safe navigation and mission execution. 

In 2019, a Navy notice ahead of a draft Request For Proposals for MCM USV first said the service intended to issue the build to print solicitation (Defense Daily, Oct. 16, 2019).

Build-to-print generally means the winner must manufacture the product according to specific technical specifications provided by the buyer, in this case the Navy.

While Textron initially won contracts to build four total MSM USVs based on the CUSV, the Navy ultimately decided to still compete the MCM USV on a build to print basis, seemingly using the Textron CUSV design used in years of testing. 

Given this production contract, the Navy apparently found Bollinger’s bid to build the MCM USV more competitive than Textron after the latter’s years of work and record building a small number of the vessels.

Work under this contract will largely be split among Lockport, La. (65 percent); Portsmouth, Va. (22 percent); and Atlanta, Ga. (10 percent) and is expected to be finished by April 2023. If all the options are exercised, the work would extend to April 2027.

According to a Navy fact sheet, the vehicle will be diesel-powered, all-aluminum that supports using various MCM payloads like the minesweeping payload delivery system (PDS), minehunting PDS and future mine neutralization payloads. All of these payloads are expected to integrate into the base MCM USV.

In January, the Navy said it conducted underwater explosion shock testing for the UISS, demonstrating the MCM USV’s survivability (Defense Daily, Jan. 4).