The Navy successfully finished shipboard integration testing of the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) and Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) on board the USS Independence (LCS-2) on Jan. 14, Naval Sea (NAVSEA) Systems Command said Thursday.
Knifefish and UISS are two elements of the Mine Countermeasure Mission Package (MCM MP) for Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs). These systems will target specific segments of the water column and sections of the MCM detect-to-engage sequence.
During integration events, both systems successfully demonstrated a communications link between LCS-2 and the unmanned systems and executed several launch and recovery evolutions form the vessel.
The Navy said this marked a “critical milestone” for the LCS Mission module program, having successfully tested every vehicle in the MCM MP on an Independence-variant LCS, MH-60S helicopter, MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, Knifefish, and UISS.
The General Dynamics [GD] Knifefish is a UUV being developed to detect, classify, and identify volume, bottom, and buried mines. It would replace the dolphins and sea lions the Navy currently uses to detect mines. The Knifefish uses a low frequency broadband SAS system to find the mines in a high clutter or buried environment.
GD based the vessel on its Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 vehicle. The Knifefish underwent contractor trials off the coast of Boston last year (Defense Daily Oct. 26, 2017).
The Navy plans to achieve Initial Operating Capability (IOC) with the Knifefish in FY 2020 (Defense Daily, May 23).
The UISS is made of the Textron [TXT] Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) towing a minesweeping unit. The program is integrating the Raytheon [RTN] AQS-20 and Northrop Grumman [NOC] AQS-24 mine hunting sonars on the same boat. Because the UISS has a modular payload capability, the Navy plans to integrate the Raytheon Barracuda mine neutralization payload into the UISS (Defense Daily, July 5).
The Navy noted the program has now also certified all the aviation modules for the MCM MP on Independence-variant LCSs.
The LCS MCM MP will provide combatant commanders with the ability to quickly deploy systems that can detect near-surface mines and neutralize mines from the surface down through to the sea floor without requiring sailors to enter a minefield.
The current slow MCM capabilities entail sending the legacy Avenger-class MCM ships made of wood and fiberglass to search for mines while MH-30S helicopters tow sonars and conduct the mine sweep mission.
The Knifefish and UISS tests are a subset of a larger program that includes shore-based system testing “to characterize individual systems prior to completing final integration on an LCS,” NAVSEA said.
The Navy said the LCS Mission Module program office will keep incrementally delivering the MCM MP systems leading up to the formal MCM MP initial operational test and evaluation events starting in 2021.