The U.S. Navy’s AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) system airborne mine detection system has achieved initial operational capability (IOC), the service said Tuesday.

COBRA is a sensor payload that can be integrated into the Northrop Grumman [NOC] MQ-8 Fire Scout unmanned air system (UAS) deployed on to a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

An MQ-8B Fire Scout conducts low-light conditional development testing with the AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Photo: U.S. Navy).
An MQ-8B Fire Scout conducts low-light conditional development testing with the AN/DVS-1 Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (Photo: U.S. Navy).

COBRA is built by Arête Associates to detect and localize minefields and obstacles when it is operating on a system flying over a beach zone. The Block I version of COBRA achieved IOC after it completed the first phase of initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) onboard a Fire Scout unit. It is now in low-rate initial production (LRIP). The Navy said IOC was first achieved on July 31.

A Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) spokesman told Defense Daily that specifically, Arête is responsible for designing the required interfaces and payload support structure for COBRA to meet MQ-8B payload architecture and integration requirements.

Block I consists of two airborne payloads: the post-mission analysis station and the tactical control system (TCS) segment for the MQ-8B mission control system (MCS).

The MCS uses the TCS to plan flight tracks required for a COBRA mission, monitor the mission, and reprogram the flight path when necessary.

Block I uses a passive multi-spectral sensor operating in bands from near ultraviolet to near-infrared that can provide four frames per second with a 16 megapixel camera. This results in 6.1 Gigabits per second of data.

Previously, this kind of reconnaissance involved putting sailors or Marines at risk by placing them on a beach in advance of a landing. This exposed them to becoming casualties and revealing a possible landing zone.

“COBRA represents a real step forward for tactical reconnaissance of beach areas. With COBRA, the Navy/Marine Corps team can quickly look at a possible landing zone and detect mines and obstacles that would inhibit landing force mobility during an assault,” Melissa Kirkendall, an official with Navy mine warfare programs, said in a statement.

NAVSEA told Defense Daily that IOC requires one COBRA Block I system to be delivered to the aviation squadron. One system consists of two COBRA Airborne Payload Sub-systems (CAPS) and one Post-Mission Analysis (PMA) sub-system.

Five additional Block I systems are being procured to support system training while 24 systems are planned for the mine countermeasure (MCM) Mission package, the spokesman said.

Areté has already delivered three low rate initial production (LRIP) systems to the Navy with two more under contract for delivery in fiscal year 2019, he added

The program uses incremental development to meet overall assault mine and obstacle reconnaissance requirements. It consists of three initial increments, or blocks, of development, with each one introducing new or enhanced capabilities.

COBRA Blocks II and III are currently planned to be concept refinement and technology development efforts. Block II is expected to extend mind detection into the surf zone and add night sensing capability.

COBRA is part of the LCS set of mine countermeasure (MCM) systems, the Navy said. It finished a set of developmental tests at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and Webster Field, Md., within the last year.

Next, COBRA will be tested in an underway period aboard an LCS equipped with the full MCM mission package for the remaining four phases of IOT&E. This is planned to start in 2018. The test also includes an MH-60S Sea Hawk Helicopter with a 23-person aviation detachment. During the trials at sea, COBRA is planned to fly several missions over beaches and demonstrate system suitability for operating from the LCS.

NAVSEA told Defense Daily that phase two of IOT&E is planned to take ten days onboard the LCS. Phase three will be a five-day test event aboard an LCS pier-side evaluating maintenance procedures and time required to perform maintenance on the COBRA system with a Fire Scout. Phases four and five are planned to be five-day events and will evaluate Block I cyber security vulnerabilities pier-side aboard an LCS with an MQ-8B.

Note: This article was updated on Oct. 12 to add details from NAVSEA.