Later this summer the Navy plans to experiment with putting the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package on expeditionary sea bases (ESBs) as a vessel of opportunity, a Navy official said on Wednesday.

Capt. Scott Searles, the program manager for strategic and theater sealift, which covers ESBs, said the service is “trying to figure out how would it be possible to adapt a mine countermeasure mission package for use on a ESB, and so that’s the vessel of opportunity concept.”

The USNS Lewis B. Puller, (T-ESB 3), the first Expeditionary Mobile Base in the formerly Mobile Landing Platform program. (Photo: General Dynamics)

Searles noted the team at LCS Mission Modules, PMS-420, “have already containerized the majority of their asset, their mission package, so that they can go on a vessel of opportunity.” This heavy lifting already figured out how to make the systems capable of being operated, launched, and recovered off of ships other than an LCS.

He said the Navy hopes to embark some of the MCM components later this summer and start doing an analysis of them working on the ESBs. The Navy’s main consideration are what does it take to make the ESB an MCM vessel of opportunity.

“So for us we’re just a platform of opportunity for them, we’re starting now with the gap analysis, that’s what we’re doing right now, we’re just looking at the design of the mission package.”

This means the Navy is looking at how the MCM lays down on an ESB, how they launch and recover the assets that go in the air and water, what kind of storage and maintenance requirements they have, and how does the ship fit those needs.

“So the great news is for the volume of the ship, the lay down area we have, it’s no problem embarking one or even two MCM mission packages, it’s just a really big ship so it’s capable of handling it all. And so we need to do now is to get the stuff on board and see. What are the handling routes, we have notional handling routes, we have notional power lay downs, power connections. So now we need to get the stuff embarked and start checking out the fit and make sure that there’s no design changes required.”

Searles said the initial looks in the gap analysis are “very promising.”

A rendering of the Knifefish unmanned underwater vehicle which will be deployed from the littoral combat ship to sweep mines. (Illustration: General Dynamics)

This is only possible at all because the vessel is prewired with the right kind of interfaces for MCM containers. “So we think about future capability, we’re really bullish on the role the ESBs can play going forward,” Searles said.

He also noted they are conducting the same gap analysis on the expeditionary fast transport (EPF) ship to see what capabilities it has to be another vessel of opportunity for the MCM assets.

While noting it is not nearly as easily passing as ESB because it has so much less space, Searles said the EPF was “designed to carry cargo and so it lends itself right out of the gate as a possibility.”

Earlier this year, LCS mission modules program manager Capt. Ted Zobel said it certified all MCM aviation mission modules for use on the Independence-variant LCSs while this year they will conduct integration work to test them on Freedom-variant vessels in the summer.

Zobel also said the Navy expects all MCM aviation modules to be certified for use on both LCS variants by the end of this year (Defense Daily, Jan. 15).

The LCS MCM systems include the Textron [TXT] Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSV) towing systems like the unmanned surface sweep system and Raytheon [RTN] AQS-20 mine hunting sonar, General Dynamics’ [GD] Knifefish surface mine countermeasure unmanned underwater vehicle, Sikorsky [LMT] MH-60 helicopters equipped with the Northrop Grumman [NOC] AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Raytheon AN/ASQ-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization Systems (AMNS), and the Northrop Grumman MQ-8B Firescout unmanned helicopter.