The Navy completed launch and recovery developmental testing of an unmanned mine hunting vehicle designed to operate off of Littoral Combat Ships, the service said Friday.

The launch and recovery testing of the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV) took place off the coast of San Diego Aug. 27 aboard the USS Independence (LCS-2), the second LCS and first of the trimaran hull variant.

The unmanned RMMV deployed. Photo by U.S. Navy.

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) said the test validated design improvements in the RMMV, and its recovery equipment, including a twin-boom crane.

"The Mine Countermeasures Detachment and the test team executed a dozen successful launches and recoveries," said Michelle Clark, an assistant program manager for LCS mission modules. "This was our best launch and handling event by far." 

The Navy has encountered difficult challenges development of the RMMV and integration into ship operations. In an interview last year, Rear Adm. James Murdoch, the program executive officer for the LCS program, said the new technology has proven to be a challenge and that making it easier for sailors to use on ship with a small crew size was a key goal.

The program appears to have made progress since his remarks. That includes sailors being able to communicate simultaneously with two off-board RMMVs during the recent tests, NAVSEA said.

The RMMV is part of the mine counter measures (MCM) module, one of three swappable mission packages being developed for the LCSs. The other two are anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. The MCM module, however, has yet to be fielded on the monohull Freedom variant of the LCS.

The goal of the MCM module is to allow sailors to detect and clear mines without having to enter suspected minefields, a significant improvement over current fleet operations, said Capt. John Ailes, the program manager for LCS mission modules.

"The MCM mission package represents a significant improvement over currently fielded mine-hunting systems," Capt. John Ailes, the program manager for LCS mission modules, said. "It will allow the Navy to keep our ships safely out of the minefield."

During the test, the RMMV and its AN/AQS-20A sonar operated continuously in the water for 23 hours.

NAVSEA initial operational and test evaluation is scheduled for completion by 2015, the final step toward declaring initial operational capability.