Navy Tests LCS Mine-Hunting System

mine_hunting

The U.S. Navy has improved the reliability of its remote mine-hunting system for the Littoral Combat Ship through a series of tests off the coast of Palm Beach, Fla., service officials said.

The so-called Remote Minehunting System, or RMS, consists of a semi-submersible with the AN/AQS-20A variable depth sonar and is designed to locate mines in shallow and deep water, officials said.

“Getting through this was really important to the whole progression of the program and efforts to get the system fielded to the fleet,” Steve Lose, who manages the program for the Navy, said in an interview. “The big plus is what RMS is going to bring to the mission and keep sailors and ships out of the mine field.”

The reliability testing decreased the average time the system failed between missions, thus increasing the effectiveness of the technology, Lose said.

The Navy adopted a test-fix-test approach wherein the system was put through a series of operationally-relevant scenarios designed to push the envelope of its electronic, hydraulic and navigational components, Lose said.

“The end product was an engineering change proposal – a design change whereby a problem is corrected,” he said. “We looked at previously identified failure modes, tested, did an analysis, then fixed the design for reliability.”

The evaluations led to improvements in hydraulic systems that help the semi-submersible turn, remain stable and change depth,” Lose said. The device is propelled by a standard diesel engine, however, hydraulic systems are needed for control, Lose said.

“We improved the overall capacity of the hydraulic system,” he said. “The vehicle is heavily dependent upon hydraulics.”

The testing, conducted by the maker of the mine-hunting system, Lockheed Martin Corp., included Navy sailors and engineers, as well as independent technical experts tasked with identifying and correcting problems on the system, Lose said.

Lockheed received a $52.9 million contract in May from the Navy to integrate the system into the LCS mine countermeasures mission package on both Lockheed’s Freedom ship and Austal’s Independence, company officials said.

Overall, the system completed more than 850 hours of testing during 47 missions over a four-month period, assessments which included exercises utilizing the AN/AQS-20A sonar to locate debris and “mock” mines on ocean floor.

“We attempted to operationally simulate how it will operate from the LCS, where you can program missions,” Lose said. Future tests will involve testing the remote mine-hunting system in an actual mine field, he said.

The sonar is lowered to additional depth beneath the surface through use of a long cable tethered to the submersible, Lose said.

The reliability testing also involved simulated conflict scenarios and took place off the shores of a Lockheed Martin facility at Riviera Beach, Fla., according to Steve Froelich, who manages the system for the contractor.

“We got together with some design reviewers and identified the need to design a fix for anything that had caused the system to interrupt the mission,” he said.

Following the daily exercises, data from the simulated mine-hunting scenarios was loaded onto a data recorder that compiled such information as temperature, pressure, revolutions per minute and sonar levels, Froelich added.

The testing also examined the navigational system of the submersible, which uses what’s called a semi-autonomous capability, meaning the vessel can travel along a path or trajectory that is pre-programmed by computers using global positioning system waypoint technology, Froelich said.

The remote mine-hunting system is an key part of the ship’s mine counter-measures mission package, a so-called modular suite of technologies engineered to work together to defend the vessel against explosive devices placed in water.

Under its deal with the Navy, Lockheed will ultimately upgrade semi-submersible on as many as 10 ships and integrate communications systems designed to enable sailors to operate two of the submersibles at the same time, Lockheed officials said.

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • Big-Dean

    Ok, so how does the need for 50knot destroyer size (4000 ton) boat fit exactly with slow mine hunting?

    I bet I get at least 10 thumbs down from the LCS mafia for “insulting” the LCS ;-P

    • Nick

      How dare you insult the LCS!

      Besides, I believe this is as close to an active weapon system these boats will have given that none of the modular stuff has worked out so far.

    • Brad

      To start, I’m certainly not part of the “LCS mafia,” but the speed is not really a compliment to the mine hunting part of the LCS mission. The speed can be used in other missions, but obviously speeding through a mine field is a bad idea. If I were part of the “LCS mafia” I would say something like, “this adds to the flexibility of the ship.”

      I still think that adding additional mine killing capabilities to our helos would be a better idea, but I don’t make the decisions…..

    • Curt

      Well, ultimately it carries the MIW package when required. But when it isn’t needed to do MIW, it can be a patrol ship to do maritime security. That is something that an MCM or MHC can’t do so they are pretty expensive limited use assets. It still doesn’t really need to be able to do 40+ knots. And, just a note, there are 6 DDGs with hangers for the WLD-1 already in service and it predates the LCS program by over 10 years, but then whose counting.

      • blight_

        Nobody is sure how long these plug-and-play modules take.

        The LCS powerpoints are supposed to imply fast swap like a USB, but it’s probably more invasive, like a motherboard swap than simply removing a USB peripheral.

        Multiple modules may be the way to go, but those modules are really just control hardware for drones. One may as well send LCS’ to a destination with multiple modules aboard and simply deliver the appropriate drones to them in a sling-load.

        • Mark

          They are suppose to take a week to swap out.

          • blight_

            Yuck

          • d. kellogg

            It was supposed to originally only take 1 to 2 days.

          • Curt

            The week timeframe (multiple weeks by some estimates) is somewhat deceptive. That includes transporting the modules and crew to the location where the swap will occur, changing the modules themselves, changing the crews, and conducting training with the new crew. The actual swapping the modules can be done in less than 48 hrs.

            But consider, to install an MIW Mission Package in place of, say a ASuW package, you will need to:
            1. Transport the MIW module and MH-60S Helo and support equipment to the swap site.
            2. Remove the existing modules and put plates over the VLS and Gun Deck Modules.
            3. Install the new modules
            4. Swap the MH-60R and all associated detachment equipment for the MIWs MH-60S and associated equipment.
            5. Change out the personnel in the detachments (So basically something like half the crew or more). Given that the crew will not have trained together recently, it may be easier just to swap the entire crew.
            6. Test all of the equipment to ensure everything works and re-familiarize the crew with the MIW operations. Have the helo guys do DLQs, recertify the deck crew, etc. So, even if the ship can be ready in a few days, the crew integration part will probably take longer.

    • Josh

      Because the LCS is specifically designed for shallow water operations where these mines are typically found. So it only makes sense that the ship capable of going into mine-infested shallow water would also be capable of detecting these mines.

      • d. kellogg

        We still are needing, in the LCS context, to define what “shallow water” even means.

        For the ships’ draught, we still won’t be operating in just 5-10m of water, as the waterjet intakes on the ships’ keel would risk ingesting debris, silt, seaweed, whatever, let alone running aground as tides and currents shift.
        So who would deploy mines in 5-10m of water anyway?
        Are we expecting future commonplace terror threats to include submerged boobytraps at known resort beaches?
        Most mines are going to be employed near port facilities and known waterways where critical vessels (commerce ships) travel, and those ships aren’t shallow draught at all.
        Same to be said for the LCS doing ASW: even small SSKs need a safety margin in water depth in which to operate.
        So any MCM and ASW missions the LCS conducts would in reality be conducted in waters with depths well within the realm of destroyers operating safely in.

        • Big-Dean

          that’s an excellent point d, ‘that is the dirty secret of the LCS, it CANNOT operate in shallow water, the jets will plug up

          Secondly, why in the heck do we need such a massive boat for the shallows, at 4000 tons, the LCS is much much larger then WWII destroyers

          Last, if the LCS is going to operate near shore, then it becomes very vulnerable to fires from the shore, and that aluminum foil isn’t going to stop anything

        • Josh

          More shallow than traditional ships can go. That’s the best answer their is.

      • blight_

        It’s too big for “true” shallow water ops. Anyone remember what happened to the USS Philadelphia at Tripoli?

        If you really want to play in the littorals, you use a mothership and bring something really low-draft. But if you want good seakeeping too, it’d have to be low-draft and perhaps a trimaran. The marriage of strange requirements makes the LCS a very strange chimera…

    • Mike B

      I really like the LCS system particularly the LCS 1 series. They have teething problems like every other major Navy system ever fielded. I believe the 50 kt is controlled by the “throttle” so you should in theory be able to go less than 50 kt….

    • robert

      The idea of the LCS was to make a multi mission ship. Eventually they plan on replacing the mine sweepers and destroyers.

      It is all about saving money.

  • JoeSovereign

    The moduler design is also meant to make easy upgrades. When the anti-mine tools are ready for a major upgrade you simply build the anti-mine module 2.0 and slip it on to an existing ship. If this is actually easier or cheaper is yet to be seen.

  • Tad

    Maybe, if the RMS does pan out, vessels other than the LCS will be able to deploy it.

    • Curt

      DDG91 to 96 already have hangers and recovery equipment for RMS. The program existed long before LCS.

    • MN2

      like an MCM! That is there job to go in to a mine field a look for mines.

    • WLEldred

      RMS was originally designed for deployment on ARLEIGH BURKE destroyers.

  • hibeam

    Where the heck is the mess hall? Are you trying to make this thing affordable?

  • Hibeam

    How many innocent civilians in Pakistan were harmed or killed during this testing? The Navy isn’t saying.

  • Speedy

    The little robot looks armed?
    (Is that a missile underneath it? (Or is it a torpedo?)

    • USNbubblehead

      Its an ROV. The main unit (AN/WLD-1; the snorkeling unit) sends the ROV out on a tether when a minefield is detected. The ROV approaches each mine, allowing the AN/WLD-1 to stay a safe distance away.

    • trall

      how do you think they get rid of the mines? spend a fortune to send out a squad of EOD or just blow it up from afar?

  • Guest

    While it is certainly wonderful that the Little Crappy Ship may soon have advanced mine detection, what happens next? Does the crew all stand on deck and chant “bad mine, bad mine, go far far away”? How is the LCS supposed to handle mine clearing?

    • joseph

      Based off that picture – it blows it up.

      If you look at the bottom of the RMS on the image, there is what looks like a snub torpedo stowed at the bottom for about three quarters of its length.

      I would assume that is an Archerfish mine clearance round, or something similar.

      • Curt

        It’s a AQS-20a acoustic fish. Neutralization is handled by AMNS on the MH-60S

  • blight_

    http://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/dam/lockhee

    Lots of blurbs about detection, but nothing about neutralization.

    I’m confused.

  • Ken

    First of all, this is truly a big waste of taxpayer dollars. Why? Because there are already systems that do the same job. One of the things that is unique to subsurface minehunting is that in order to find a submerged mine, you have to put something in the water. If that something is a ship….with men obviously on board…then you have defeated the purpose of the search which is, in fact, to keep the ship from being in danger of being damaged/destroyed. With that said, the safest way to locate and neutralize mines is through the use of airborne mine countermeasures. One of the lessons learned from the Persian Gulf Wars was that the use of minesweeper ships is limited by weather and sea state…..much more so than aircraft are. However, they can maintain a sweep after dark so they can sweep non stop over a 24 hour period. Also, minesweepers have to travel to the area where the mines are located which can take several weeks and require a transport (Sea-going ferry) to get the sweeper where it needs to be. airborne minesweepers can be deployed and operating any where in the world in 72 hours. So, with all this said, is this system ONLY deployable by ship? If so, you are endangering the lives of the ship’s crew by placing them in the minefield. It may be remote, but it was said the system was tethered to the ship…..TOO close !

    I spent over 10 years in the AMCM community. There are much better systems available that will do this job-faster, better, cheaper, and most importantly…SAFER!!!! $52.9 could be used to buy more of the present available systems with enhancements!!! What a waste!!!!

    • blight_

      This particular Lockheed system is chucked out of a ship, and consists of a floating component and a tethered search component.

      I suppose if they could design a way to make this airdroppable…

    • Uncle Bill

      I doubt your ten years is worth that much if you think this thing is tethered to the LCS and carries a small, heretofore unheard of mini-torpedo. It is an autonomous diesel powered semi-submersible that lowers a sonar on a tether. It is deployed by the LCS, not towed by it, like all of your better but soon obsolete solutions.

      Sheesh!

      • Guest

        And again, deploying the system from a LCS is better than helicopter deployment because? Is it better because the LCS can stay on site longer, carry more detectors, present an easy target?

    • Guest

      Ok yah…

      And towing a Q-20 with a helo (which is cancelled by the way) for an hour before having to refuel is effective?

    • Denis

      I spent time in the Gulf with both AMCM and SMCM. Ships perform much better and were more dependable. AMCM can get to the objective quicker but performs poorly even against rustic moored mines. Sweep gear doesn’t hold up neither do the aircraft. Once ships are on station things turn around. Unfortunately in the past the ships ended up using aircraft sweep gear which in my opinion will not hold up as size one gear will. The ship has the advantage of self protection using its vds sonar. My experience goes back twenty years and equipment has change in favour of airborn developed systems.

      • blight_

        The big question is mobility. How mobile is the floating component? Could it not be put into an RHIB or a Regulator and teleoperated, allowing for extended range from the “mothership”?

        We’re going to need tons of drones teleoperated locally if we want to clear large areas of ocean quickly. LCS will probably do much of the laying (I suppose the large cargo bay would be helpful in deploying helicopters and drones); but a bigger ship will do the teleoperating; or perhaps a different LCS will, since it would be silly and dangerous to have the drone-laying ship also teleoperate as the loss of the laying ship kills drone control.

  • Big-Dean

    Newswire, June 28, 1pm EST,

    For public release

    Navy report LCS resounding success

    Vice Admiral Knucklehead, commander officer LCS 1, the USS Freedom, has announced today the successful installation of the ADSM module. Admiral Knucklehead says that the crew “worked night and day for six months” to get this very important war-fighting module operational and combat tested. The USS Freedom went through expensive sea trials and the ADSM module performed beyond expectations and it came in only $1.3 M over budget and 3 years late, well within accepted Navy standard. Admiral Knucklehead said, “I’m proud of my crew and ship, this important milestone shows the Navy and the country and the LCS is ready to sail in harmless way and make port visits. She makes an important contribution to the fleet in the years to come, We can now only expect more positive results. The Anti-Diesel Stain module (ADSM) works as planned in covering up the exhaust stains on the side the ship.”

  • Uncle Bill

    So when we drive the mean time between failures to zero are we done?

    • Uncle Bill

      “The reliability testing decreased the average time the system failed between missions,”

  • Warren

    I wonder how much money ABS has made off this program so far.

  • Mine Sweeping BM

    A major step in the right direction! For those of you from the wooden decks where “Iron Men Tread,” you’ll recognize the prospects coming down the road as 2d and 3d gen kick in. I am impressed – Mineware plays a critcal role in maintaing a modernized Fleet.

  • Guest

    I guess the steel LCS will be a boom to mine hunting..LOL!

  • paul McMahon

    I am an AMS Sailor from the 50’s, and I am glad we are still spending money on mine Warfare research. There is no reason that little baby will not be cut from it’s cord, and then follow it’s target to a safe place to donate. or even attach itself to the belly of the target and Waite for a command from the mother ship to blow… The money spent on hydraulic control is being well spent!

  • awc ret allan

    do they have the capability of more than 1 sonar frequency so if you need to operate more than 1 unit they won’t interfere with each other

  • w.schroeder

    make the outer shell more stealthier and more reusible for cost effictiveness, also try a varity of submunitions like cluster to home in on field remote guided far from home ship or base and possible make it composit to save weight and make transportable any where in world in under 24 hrs.

  • Gerald M. Weber

    Jerry
    We’re doing it again, forgetting about ship count, mine sensitivity settings and mine burial. I was the operational commander for the sweeping of Soviet mines off the coast of Egypt in 1974 or 75. Mud bottom, shallow environment, probable ship count of 21and very sensitive magnetic mines. The only way to sweep those mines was with “safe track sweeping” and we accomplished that task with AMCM H-53s. We did it safer and a hell of a lot faster that ships could have even with this new gear.

  • nilsplat

    Tested in calm waters in FL. How about heavy seas?

  • Gary

    But some defense contractor made millions on this and that is what counts today!

  • capt’n john

    Lord, save us from ourselves, please! For those of you who didn’t see the special TV show on the acceptance trials for LCS 1 & 2, look it up, sit down with a stiff toddy, and prepare to brace yourself. The RMS recovery module is the biggest jury-rig I’ve ever seen – they almost didn’t get the package back in sea state 0… and at all ahead slow!

    “The reliability testing decreased the average time the system failed between missions, thus increasing the effectiveness of the technology, Lose said.”

    PARDON ME??? I don’t think so – the technology either works or it doesn’t. you might make the system more effective, but not the technology. and just how does it fail “between missions” ?? if i’d ever given my boss a line of crap like that i’d have been dragging my butt-less carcass out the door in no time.

    and now we find out that the LCS is really an “ocean-going” ship designed to maximize littoral capabilities. really? well, doesn’t that just make you feel warm and fuzzy all over….

    I weep….

  • Any mine hunting sonar can only classify an object as mine like.I have fooled mine hunting sonars from the earliest to the sqq14-30-32 included the Brits and French systems. You ask how. A mine is a cylinder or a sphere. Fake mine #1 old hot water heater,#2 concrete ball and any other item that presents a mine like return. This also includes natural sea shapes like coral heads. We can find a lic plate from space with video camera. Changes medium. Mount cameras I the configureation of the sqq classify transducer head on a rov. Cheap and operators can SEE the target .portable packages could be developed to be deployable on any ship available. VIDEO is the only way to find MINES not mine like .

    • Old sonar

      agree, sight is always better than a ping, the ping is just a heads-up to take a closer look.

  • grumpy boats

    Having been a part of LCS for the last 4 yrs and testing the turds as we call it. I can tell you that these thingsare just that a turd. They only work maybe once before they breakdown the most I have seen has been 3 operations with no issues. In fact the running joke is that these things are made by ACME and sold by Wylie Coyote. There are better and cheaper systems out there to use, It seems to be someones got their retirement job setup and thats why we continue to use this system which can only be used on the Independence Class of LCS. They can’t use it on the Freedom class due to its weight comming outthe side of the ship it floods the mission area out.

  • WMc
  • WMc