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McCain, Reed Chide Navy Over Problems with LCS Mine Countermeasure Package, Recommend Review of Other Technologies

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). US Navy 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). US Navy Photo

The heads of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) expressed disappointment in the progress of the Mine Countermeasures (MCM) package for the Littoral Combat Ship and are recommending the Navy review other mine hunting technologies to fill looming needs in the fleet, according to a Monday letter to Defense Department acquisition chief Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert obtained by USNI News.

At issue are recent reports on the reliability of a core component in the MCM package, the Remote Minehunting System (RMS) — comprised of the Raytheon AQS-20A towed array sonar and the Lockheed Martin remote multi-mission vehicle (RMMV).

The 7.25-ton semi-submersible RMMV — designed to deploy from the LCS and autonomously scout mines with the AQS-20A — in particular has had a history of persistent reliability problems.

SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and ranking member Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) cite an early August memo signed by director of the Office of Test and Evaluation (DOT&E) Michael Gilmore that “assessed the current Remote Mine Hunting System and RMMV reliability as being 18.8 hours and 25.0 hours between mission failures… which is well below the Navy’s requirement of 75 hours” and that the Navy provided “no statistical evidence that the [system] is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago.”

The findings of Gilmore’s Aug. 3 memo were first reported by Defense News.

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) officials told USNI News on Wednesday the two most recent technical evaluation runs of the RMS system had “a preliminary estimate of 39 hours” before mission failure.

Two years ago, the NAVSEA officials told USNI News the RMS had achieved up to 45 hours of operation before failure.

NAVSEA declined to comment on the letter directly but provided a statement to USNI News that said, “to ensure better results for upcoming test runs, the Navy is implementing a more robust ready-for-use inspection, procuring additional spares, and providing additional training, additional technicians, better tools and updated procedures.”

The Pentagon had initially planned to conduct initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) for the MCM package in July ahead of an expected declaration of initial operational capability (IOC) at the end of this month. The Navy later delayed both the tests and the IOC declaration.

USNI News first reported the delays in the MCM package testing schedule in July.

Following IOC, the service was set to award a low rate initial production (LRIP) contract for additional RMMVs. The service plans to procure 24 of the MCM packages to field on LCS.

In light of the DOT&E memo, McCain and Reed urged the Navy hold “to review the alternatives and make sure we are on the correct course, rather than letting the inertia of the status quo continue the program of record on into operational testing and production.”

Specifically, the pair mentioned the service take closer looks at the Minehunting Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MHU); the AN/AQS24 sonar currently in use by the Navy’s fleet of MH-53 Sea Dragon MCM helos; the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (C-USV), which will be part of the MCM mission package in a later increment; and unmanned underwater vehicles like the Mark 18 Mod 1 Sword Fish and Mod 2 Kingfish.

Of all of the planned mission packages for LCS, the MCM package is by far the most urgent need for the Navy. In the next several years the service plans to decommission its 1980s-era Avenger-class mine sweepers (MCM-1) and its fleet of Sea Dragons, and the Navy has few alternatives to fill the gap when the platforms leave the service.

  • NavySubNuke

    letting the inertia of that status quo carry the program forward is pretty much the definition of the entire little crappy ship program —- its just too far along to cancel despite delivering little to no capability at high costs

    • johnbull

      We let the coolness factor of having one ship that could theoretically do everything get in the way producing something good and useful. We’ve spent years and years and countless dollars and at the end of the day have a vessel that isn’t a competent small combatant, isn’t a competent sub hunter, and can’t hunt a mine. This at precisely the time we’ve just put the last of our FFGs out to pasture and are looking to retire our existing mine sweepers. We are in an awful pickle right now with ships. And we did it to ourselves. Apparently we’re too far down the road with these turkeys so we’re stuck with them. We need minesweepers now but the package for these ships is nowhere near ready. CGs are aging and need replacing, and not long after that the Burkes will need replacing, and this at the time that we are looking at the huge SSBN project in next few years.

  • mustard_gun

    Sounds like someone in NAVSEA may have been fudging the stats. Or they are just incompetent

    • Curtis Conway

      “…a preliminary estimate of 39 hours” before mission failure.

      Now there is some performance huh? I can remember when we could hardly get through a watch in CIC without a full computer reload. My last days on Tico we could go 3-4 days before any anomalies would begin to crop up. That in fact was one of the Stress Tests for the combat system before acceptance. One would think with all the SURTAS experience, and all the units underway on surface combatants, that maturity at this stage would be much better.

    • old guy

      (to the tune of, “MOTHER”)

      C is for the Congress, who will fight you
      O is for the Other yards you’ll meet
      M is for the Money we’d be saving
      P is for a Plan that’s really neat
      E is for Efficiency you get here
      T is for the Taxpayer’s relief,
      add an
      E for Everyone who’ll love it

      and that will spell the program, called “COMPETE!”

  • Curtis Conway

    Send them to help the Nigerian Navy with pirates off of West Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. It can do that!

    • old guy

      That is the first time I have heard a plausible use for this HUNK-A-JUNK. Congratulations.

      • redgriffin

        Remind me again please what does Littoral mean?

        • old guy

          LITT’-O RAL (accent on the first syllable) means near the beach, literally.
          WIKIPEDIA: LITTORAL littoral zone is the part of a sea, lake or river that is close to the shore. In coastal environments the littoral zone extends from the high water mark, which is rarely inundated, to shoreline areas that are permanently submerged.

        • old guy

          EXCEPT in LCS, where it means LOUSY

          • redgriffin

            That’s not what I find when I look in the Dictionary but you do seem to have proved the point that I have arrived at from reading comments in this forum. There is an Illogical and almost psychotic hatred for the LCS and no one can say why expect that the gun is too small.

        • Secundius

          @ redgriffin.

          Technically, the Atlantic Ocean is “Littoral” 600-meters depths or less…

          • redgriffin

            So just answer the question “What is the definition of Littoral.” ?

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  • Chesapeakeguy

    I keep thinking of that term “jack of all trades, master of none!”. I also remember the F-111 and what was hoped for that when it was first conceived and designed and developed. Maybe the LCS will mirror what ultimately happened with, and because of, the F-111. The Navy gave up on their version of the F-111 and went on to develop and produce the F-14. The AF did the same thing and ended up with their F-15. And the F-111 became a superb attack aircraft in its own right. Perhaps a suitable mission that the LCS can truly dominate will surface, and they can be outfitted accordingly.

    • old guy

      Good analysis, EXCEPT, the “TFX”, which eventually became the F-111 was a McNamarra stupidity (I was involved, at the time) was NEVER a good A/C due to its poor performance and overweight. I have written some specifics of its flaws in other posts.

  • vincedc

    The problem is that the ship was built for the wrong mission. It was based on the “From the Sea” doctrine that came out of Desert Storm. Basically, support the troops from shallow water against mines and diesel subs. But those D-Day type invasions will probably never happen, and the new threats have capabilities that the LCS simply wasn’t designed for. The real key is to develop add-ons that meet the today’s requirements.

    • old guy

      Correction please. This ship NEVER had a mission. It was so stated in the RFP for the preliminary design. My guys, in 1975 came up with a program named “SEA MOD” which specified DEFINED modular packages that could be accommodated. The Germans came up with “MEKO”, a similar concept.
      The LCS concept was built around SEA05’s desire for trimaran and semi-planing hull vehicles with little thought for other concepts, so don’t expect too much from it.

  • Truthseeker

    My daughter is helping to build the LCS’s here in Marinette WI. We have 3 sitting in the water, one ready for dry dock and the keel being laid on a 5th. In a twin city town of about 24,000 its quite a site with three of these beautiful babies in the river but man oh man, do these things seem to be plagued with problems. A few days back the LCS Milwaukee (as problematic as the city) was out in the bay running trials. I couldn’t see the ship but I sure could see the wash from her water jets miles away. Awesome! When they get the bugs out of these ships, they will do some much needed vital work in the South China Sea and critical areas elsewhere. I have no doubt they and their crews will excel as the US Navy has a habit of doing.

  • MNCMNavyRetired

    I retired in 2000 and those of us in the MCM community knew that the LCS/mission package combination was never going to be successful. Mine hunting is one of the most difficult missions areas the Navy has to perform and having a fast barge that is outfitted with experimental, unmanned sensors was doomed to fail. This is yet another example of Admirals with ZERO MCM experience making decisions on the one warfare area that has damaged more ships since WWII than any other without understanding the consequences of their actions. When the Avenger class MCM ships are all gone, our Navy will not be able to command the seas. Just take a quick look at what happened a Wonsan harbor during the Korean war and you will see just how fast our mighty Navy can be stopped by WWI weapons.

    • old guy

      RIGHT ON. My comments on the unconscionable NAVSEA actions, during the P.D. competition have been excised here. (probably too controversial)

    • Curtis Conway

      Truth and Wisdom. Not what we are getting out of the LCS Program Office today.

  • Sailboater

    Keep it simple. Build a new improved minesweeper base on the Avenger class minesweepers

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