The Navy and contractor testing of the remote minehunting system designed to operate off the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) has not been realistic and has artificially inflated the reliability of the system, according to a report this week by the Pentagon’s independent testing office.

The RMMV. Photo: U.S. Navy
The RMMV. Photo: U.S. Navy

The remote minehunting system (RMS) is part of the anti-mine mission package for the LCSs, and consists of the unmanned remote multi-mission vehicles (RMMVs), which are meant to operate autonomously for search for mines and carry the AN/AQS-20A sonar. Lockheed Martin [LMT] builds the RMMV while Raytheon [RTN] is the contractor for the sonar. The sonar can also be deployed by helicopter.

The report released Wednesday by the Pentagon’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E), said that although the RMS program has made progress since it was sanctioned and restructured in 2010 because of cost overruns, the testing showing that progress has been questionable.

“These tests were not conducted in an operationally realistic manner,” the DOT&E said.

The Navy said it is working closely with the testing community to ensure the RMS program is fully evaluated in an operationally realistic environment, and has a series of upcoming testing to continue to develop the system to meets its requirements. Additional testing will take place this summer and an initial operational test and evaluation is planned for fiscal 2015, with an initial operational capability declaration slated to occur thereafter.

“We are testing, learning and fixing as the acquisition process was designed to permit before a system is delivered for fleet use,” said Lt. Rob Myers, a Navy spokesman. “Our partnership with fleet operators and the testing and acquisition communities will enable the Navy to deliver meaningful warfighting capability to the fleet at the best price.”

The DOT&E said recent developmental testing indicates that the LCSs may not be able to operate with two RMMVs on board without having to return to port more frequently than planned to obtain replacements. It said standards for measuring the RMS’s improvement since 2010 are not operationally relevant, as they don’t require the RMMV to operate under a realistic load, permit additional maintenance as long as it takes less than two hours, and do not count several critical failures that would be considered operational failures in the performance of the mission.

“Hence, the reliability derived from the contractor testing is artificially inflated by at least a factor of two,” the report said. It added that “an accurate assessment of achieved RMMV reliability cannot be made until the RMS is tested under operationally realistic end-to-end minehunting missions.”