The US Navy has completed shipboard integration testing of the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) and the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) on board Independence-class littoral combat ship, USS Independence (LCS 2).
The US Navy Knifefish UUV and the UISS are part of the Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (MCM MP), which allow the LCS to detect and neutralise or avoid mines while carrying out fleet operations.
The MCM MP, which incorporates a system-of-systems approach to target specific portions of the water column and segments of the MCM detect-to-engage sequence, deploys aviation assets and unmanned surface and submersible vehicles.
During integration, both the US Navy’s Knifefish UUV and UISS verified the communications link between USS Independence and the unmanned systems.
The unmanned systems also executed multiple launch and recovery evolutions from LCS 2.
According to the US Navy, the integration test events represent a significant milestone for the LCS Mission Module Program.
To complete the integration testing, the US Navy tested each vehicle in the MCM MP, including an MH-60S helicopter, MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter, UISS and Knifefish UUV on board Independence-variant ships.
Originally designed as the Bluefin-21 civilian undersea search robot by General Dynamics’s subsidiary Bluefin Robotics, the Knifefish UUV was modified for military use by the Naval Sea Systems Command in 2011.
The LCS Mission Module Program has certified all the aviation modules for the MCM MP for deployment on USS Independence-variant ships.
Combatant commanders can use these airborne MCM systems to rapidly deploy systems for detection of near-surface mines.
In addition, the systems can neutralise mines in the water and on the seabed, eliminating the need for sailors to sail into the minefield.
The Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis system, which is a vertical-take-off unmanned aerial vehicle payload, can be deployed to deliver beach zone mine-detection capability during amphibious assault missions.
The US Navy is expected to commence the formal MCM MP initial operational test and evaluation events beginning in 2021.
Until then, the LCS Mission Module programme office will continue to incrementally deliver MCM MP systems to the fleet.
–Additional reporting by Talal Husseini.