The Knifefish autonomous unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) has received Milestone C approval from the US Navy.

The approval from Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) is a key milestone for the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program.

It sets the stage for the navy to proceed with the low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the vehicle.

General Dynamics Mission Systems is the prime contractor for the Knifefish system. The company has been awarded a potential two-year, $44.59m contract modification to begin the LRIP.

Knifefish can be deployed from the US Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS) or other ‘vessels of opportunity’.

The system uses automated target recognition software technology and low-frequency broadband sonar to detect, classify and identify buried, bottom and volume mines in high-clutter environmental conditions.

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Knifefish is designed to provide increased mine-hunting capability and is a key component of the LCS Mine Countermeasure Mission Package.

It works as an off-board sensor that ensures the safety of personnel as the host ship is stationed outside the boundaries of the minefield.

The system includes two UUVs, support systems and equipment.

Featuring an open systems architecture, Knifefish supports the reconfiguration of the mission package to meet evolving mission demands.

The modularity will also allow future block upgrades to sensors and target recognition software.

Knifefish underwent developmental testing followed by an operational assessment between January and May this year.

The tests were carried out off the coasts of Massachusetts and Florida and included operations such as mission planning, launch and recovery, monitoring the sorties and data processing.

In January, the system took part in shipboard integration testing alongside Textron’s unmanned influence sweep system (UISS) onboard LCS vessel USS Independence (LCS 2). Knifefish passed sea acceptance testing in June last year.

The navy expects to make a decision on the system’s full-rate production in the fiscal year 2022. The decision will be preceded by further testing of LRIP systems.

The service has plans to acquire a total of 30 Knifefish systems.