The US Navy has awarded a contract worth $72.8m to General Dynamics Mission Systems to retrofit five of the Block 0 Knifefish surface mine countermeasure unmanned underwater vehicle (SMCM UUV) systems.

These systems consist of ten Knifefish SMCM vehicles.

General Dynamics Mission Systems, a unit of General Dynamics, serves as prime contractor for the Knifefish programme.

In March this year, the Navy took delivery of the first Knifefish from General Dynamics under a $44.6m contract modification awarded in 2019.

The retrofit programme is expected to boost Knifefish operations at deeper depths and enable it to identify more complex target environments and offer more accurate localisation.

Following completion, all ten Knifefish Block 0 UUVs will be integrated with the new requirements and then re-delivered in the Block 1 configuration.

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A medium-class mine countermeasure UUV, Knifefish SMCM is intended for deployment from the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship and other navy vessels of opportunity.

Reducing the risk to personnel, it can operate within minefields as an off-board sensor, even as the host ship stays out of the minefield boundaries.

General Dynamics Mission Systems vice-president and general manager Carlo Zaffanella said: “General Dynamics Mission Systems is honoured to extend our support to the US Navy with this increased capability on all five Knifefish SMCM systems.

“We are proud to provide the navy with advanced, state-of-the-art unmanned underwater vehicles, and we are dedicated to delivering this technology safely and quickly to our sailors.”

Using an open architecture concept, the firm designed the tactical UUV that can be quickly modified to fit in a wide range of missions.

This UUV is based on the General Dynamics Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deepwater autonomous undersea vehicle.

In 2016, General Dynamics Mission Systems had acquired Bluefin.

Its team is currently delivering the initial Block 0 units on the earlier low-rate initial production contract.

The UUVs are designed and developed at General Dynamics Mission Systems’ facilities in Quincy of Massachusetts and McLeansville of North Carolina, and manufactured at its Taunton, Massachusetts facility.