Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) yesterday said it successfully completed the first phase of shipboard mine countermeasure mission package (MCM MP) testing on USS Independence (LCS 2) Dec. 10, enabling the service to progress toward developmental testing in 2011.

“I am extremely pleased with the outcome of this event,” Capt. John Ailes, Littoral Combat Ship Mission Modules program manager, said in a statement. “The successful integration of the full MCM mission package on USS Independence gives us great confidence as we enter developmental testing.”

Comprehensive testing on Independence included the installation and removal of all the mission modules and systems, including removable mission equipment. n

The MCM MP first phase testing demonstrated the full mission cycle from reconfiguration of the MH-60S Seahawk helicopter from vertical replenishment to the mission package with Organic Airborne Mine Countermeasures equipment; removal of that equipment from support containers; handling to the MH-60S and back, including installation, built in testing, and tow cable maintenance.

The mission package reconfiguration demonstrated system movement from stowage positions, built in testing, and return to stowage. Combat system connectivity and launch and recovery antenna communication link performance, in and out of the mission bay were also demonstrated. Initial operating capability for the MCM MP is scheduled for 2013.

Littoral Combat Ships are fast, agile, and networked surface combatants optimized for operating in the littorals to assure access for joint forces, NAVSEA said.

The House this week passed a stand alone bill granting the Navy approval to buy Littoral Combat Ships from Lockheed Martin [LMT]-Marinette Marine and Austal USA, the companies vying to build them, thus leaving approval of the change in acquisition strategy in the Senate’s hands (Defense Daily, Dec. 16).

LCS acquisition plans are facing skepticism from some senators, who told Navy leaders at a hearing Tuesday that they wanted to delay contract awards until January, February, or March of next year to give Congress more time to evaluate the Navy’s proposed LCS strategy.

The primary missions for the LCS include countering littoral mine threats, diesel submarine threats, and surface threats such as small surface craft attacks. The underlying strength of these ships lies in the ability to quickly reconfigure the ship with specific equipment tailored to its current mission. The three current options are the MCN, Anti- Submarine Warfare or Surface Warfare mission package.

These mission packages provide a modular, focused capability to combatant commanders. A mission package consists of mission modules, mission crew detachments and support aircraft. Mission modules combine mission systems (vehicles, sensors, weapons) and support equipment that install into a Littoral Combat Ship using standard interfaces.

Program Executive Office Littoral and Mine Warfare, an affiliated Program Executive Office of Naval Sea Systems Command, designs, delivers and maintains the systems, equipment and weapons needed by the warfighter to dominate the littoral battlespace and provide the warfighter assured access to coastal areas.