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LCS Mine Countermeasures Package Final Evaluation Delayed Due To Reliability Concerns

The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS-2) deploys a remote multi-mission vehicle (RMMV) while testing the ship's mine countermeasures mission package (MCM) off the southern California coast in August 2013. Austal USA photo.

The littoral combat ship USS Independence (LCS-2) deploys a remote multi-mission vehicle (RMMV) while testing the ship’s mine countermeasures mission package (MCM) off the southern California coast in August 2013. Austal USA photo.

The Littoral Combat Ship’s mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package will not reach initial operational capability (IOC) by the end of September as planned, after reliability issues forced the program to stretch out the test period and delay Pentagon-level initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E). 

USS Independence (LCS-2) has been off the coast of Florida conducting a technical evaluation since April, and that test event was supposed to have wrapped up by early June to allow for IOT&E this month and a final IOC declaration by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.

But LCS Mission Modules Program Manager Capt. Casey Moton said Thursday at a Mine Warfare Association lunch that across-the-board reliability problems in the two start-to-finish mine clearance runs in the technical evaluation led the program to extend the evaluation for several months rather than move prematurely to IOT&E.

“At a high level, we’ve been pleased with the performance of the individual MCM systems in detecting, classifying and identifying mines,” he said.
“Each of the systems is doing well in the missions that they were designed to do – they’re finding mines on the bottom, they’re finding mines in the near-surface, they’re finding mines in the volume. And frankly, they’re doing so I think better than we, in some cases, anticipated.”

But, Moton continued, “my primary focus right now is reliability. It’s not enough that the systems are good at detecting, classifying and identifying mines – I need to deliver systems that can offer sustained, repeatable performance. And so far, I’m not satisfied with how that’s going. I’m not satisfied with that performance,” he said.

“In the runs so far, principally in Run Number Two, we experienced some ship and some system mission package failures that hurt our reliability. So we’re very confident that we know all the issues that occurred, there’s not a one of them that we don’t have a corrective action path that’s being executed. So I’m confident. But what we have decided to do is, we’re going to add some run time to techeval. So we’re going to make [the technical evaluation] go a little bit farther because we want to be rock solid as we head into IOT&E. There is going to be a delay, we’re talking a few months – I don’t want to give you an exact number, it’s not a year but it’s not a couple weeks either. It’s going to be a couple months.”

Moton said there was not a single point of failure in the testing – in some instances, the ship itself had a failure, in some cases a procedure proved unworkable for the Navy crew and in some cases there were integration flaws. He added that the actual mine detection tools – the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) experienced fewer problems out at sea. Rather, the integration issues affected the communication system for the mission package and the launch and recovery system for the Remote Multimission Vehicle (RMMV), for example.

As for the procedural problems, Moton said that a procedure developed by a subject matter expert may, in theory, be the best way to accomplish a task, but it may not make the most sense for a crew of sailors on a ship at sea. In those instances, this extended techeval period simply buys more time to work out the kinks before demonstrating the crew’s and systems’ performance for Pentagon testers.

Moton praised the crew, which underwent extensive training last fall and is “showing significant proficiency,” as well as resiliency during this lengthy preparation period. He said shore support, including a remote operating station, was also performing well and made him confident that the ship and its MCM mission package would be well taken care of on deployment.

He added that the testing community, both in the Navy and at the Pentagon, were supportive of the decision to delay IOT&E until all the reliability issues are worked out. The office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) is looking at the schedule now to determine when the test may be rescheduled.

Overall, Moton said he’s not concerned about the mission package’s ability to reach IOC.

“There’s not a single [failure] that caused us to look at the systems and say, that’s not going to work, or we’re going to have to take and off-ramp. It’s all stuff we can go after.”

  • Ctrot

    Really? And this program was going so well……

    • NavySubNuke

      The worst part will be when (if?) this program actually gets on track and people can actually start paying attention to other programs again. I am sure we will all look back and remember fondly the 10+ years LCS has been a perfect sh*t screen for all of us…..

      • PolicyWonk

        I might look back fondly if somehow the LCS manages to avoid getting into a tangle with a naval adversary, or manages to demonstrate that all of the negative reports about it from all of our auditing agencies (and potential buyers from allied navies) turned out to be exaggerations.

        But given the fact that LCS was scorched by the Navy’s own Inspector General, and even with the improvements to it that push its cost beyond what our allies pay for high-end frigates (while retaining few of the same qualities), it seems unlikely.

        • johnbull

          The F 35 is over budget and behind schedule to be sure, but lets not compare it with the LCS. The F 35 probably will end up being a good airplane, particularly for the marines. The LCS is over buget, behind schedule, and has no chance of being a useful warship. Good money after bad.

          • PolicyWonk

            Many of us who’ve been following the developments regarding LCS consider it to be useful only as a corporate welfare program. This is of course, mainly due to its lack of suitability as a warship: maximum cost to the taxpayer; minimum usefulness to the navy; small protection to those unfortunate enough to be assigned to them.

  • Beomoose

    The RMMV launch/recovery system always seemed a bit of a sore spot. Too finicky and too fragile for the work it’s intended to do.

  • james jones

    As a sailor who haappy chips and s work with this cr

  • Corey

    I’m tired of the Navy brass bureaucracy and politics. It pathetic and downright insulting how they are wasting tax payers dollars with this crappy program. The truth need to heard. The ship mission packages are mediocre at best having served on this cheap and usless class of ships I can speak from experience and tell you that its all a lie. They will not be happy until someone die from the failures of this program. The ship is crews is undermanned, overworked, and frustrated with the program but thats truth you will not hear from the Navy brass because they are only concerned with the careers and no one wants to tell congress that the Navy messed up acquiring inferrior ships that has no chance of survivalbility in combat. The mine warfare package is struggling only because the ship (USS Independence) is crappy ship. Additionally, the TBEC that it deploys the RMMV is a death trap waiting to happen. It will only be a matter of time before a sailor is killed or critically injured from the inferrior design. Reading this article only high lights how the truth is being withheld from the American Public

  • RobM1981

    Megan has another article, posted today, about how the ASW package is too heavy and has to be remediated before it can be deployed. Thus the LCS now has neither ASW or MCM. Wow.

    Is it fair to call the LCS “The F-35 of the High Seas?”

    • Ctrot

      F-35 has a better than even chance of becoming a valuable weapons system, which is more than can be said of LCS. So not that last statement is not fair, not to F-35.

  • Mr. Speaker

    LCS Mission Modules…………..reminds me of the Japanese at Midway when they had to reconfigure their aircraft weapons to attack carriers instead of land targets.
    We all know how that turned out.

    • Secundius

      @ Mr. Speaker.

      I believe EVERY Ship in the US Navy during WW2 was Modular. Built in Section’s and Welded together to make a complete ship…

      • Mr. Speaker

        You are mostly correct however you should read up on LCS Mission Modules to understand the difference between their intended use and WWII era ship construction methods.

        • Secundius

          @ Mr. Speaker.

          Up until 1999, the Concept of building a Lego-Ship as a Combatant was never even Contemplated before. Now that they have them, it’s a WIP. Seeing “What Will and What Won’t” Work on these Ship’s…

  • CaptainParker

    Oh please…we don’t worry whether the weapon and ship systems work or not. The focus has to be on diversity and inclusion and making sure that every specialty is gender-inclusive. Come on…get with the program.

  • Marjus Plaku

    The whole cumbersome deployment, such as need for slow speed and calm sea state is a massive drawback for a ship whose main claim to fame is speed and maneuverability and which plans to clear mines or chase subs. The actual MCM vesicle takes hours to scan and hours to upload/analyse. It is not live transmission or very fast.

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