This post has been updated to include a complete account from the Navy regarding its plans for the RMMV and LCS mine countermeasures mission package, and a comment from Lockheed Martin on its RMMV.
The Navy will halt procurement of the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle included in the Littoral Combat Ship’s mine countermeasures (MCM) mission package and will instead compete several unmanned vehicles over the next three fiscal years, officials decided this week.
According to a Friday evening statement from Navy spokeswoman Capt. Thurraya Kent, the Navy will halt production of the Lockheed Martin-built RMMV, 10 of which the Navy owns but have long struggled to meet reliability requirements. The Navy will upgrade the vehicles it already owns and then compete the upgraded RMMVs against the Textron Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV), which is already slated to join the LCS mine countermeasures package as a minesweeping vehicle, and the General Dynamics Knifefish unmanned underwater vehicle, which will join the mission package for buried and high-clutter minehunting.
In the short term, the Navy will continue to operate the MCM mission package from two Independence-variant LCSs – both locally and in deployments abroad in Fiscal Year 2018 – to gain operational experience and lessons learned, Kent said. In the longer term, the Navy will select an unmanned vehicle to move forward with by FY 2019, and in FY 2019 or 2020 the Navy will use the updated mission package to complete developmental and operational tests in support of initial operational capability for the mission package. The full text of Kent’s statement is included at the end of this post.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said at a Brookings Institution event on Friday that this approach lines up with the Navy’s recent emphasis on rapid prototyping and experimentation, and in seeking the eventual solution for filling the remote minehunting requirement the service should push multiple solutions out to the sailors and let them discover what works.
“Get it out there as quickly as you can and test it in a realistic environment – not skipping the testing that you have to do, the formal testing that you have to do – but as the CNO said, getting it to the fleet and letting … the people who are going to have to operate it and who are incredibly skilled tell you what the issues are, tell you the fixes that need to be made, or tell you the improvements you need to make,” Mabus said.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said at the same event that this effort would yield lessons learned for rapid prototyping in the future.
“If we had had sort of a rapid prototyping approach earlier in this program, I think we would be in a different place in respect to this tow vehicle that’s the semi-submersible – we would have run that out a lot faster, and we would have probably gone to a different solution earlier,” Richardson said.
“The hard part, the sensor part, is working great,” and the Navy now needs to find the right vehicle to tow those sensors.
“The other part of it going forward is not only the modularity for LCS but the modularity for any other ship that can be brought to bear, including some of our international partners,” Richardson added, since the mission package and its subcomponents are ship-agnostic.
“This kind of open architecture approach will make that mission able to be shared with other nations in the region, and I think overall we’ll get a much more comprehensive approach to a really difficult mission, which is finding some small objects and potentially crazy environments. We’re on the right track right now.”
As the Navy moves forward with its course of action, which was signed on Feb. 24 and shared publicly on Feb. 26, it has the benefit of time – the Navy still have 11 legacy MCM ships in the fleet to conduct mine countermeasures operations, as well as several unmanned systems operating in the Middle East thanks to urgent operational needs requests, that can perform the mission until leadership makes a decision on which unmanned vehicle to use in the LCS package.
The Navy also has a head start on upgrading its RMMVs. Four of the 10 have already been upgraded to the 6.0 configuration, which replaced worn-out parts from the 10-year-old vehicles. Two more are undergoing the upgrade now, Kent said in her statement, and two more will be upgraded later. USNI News understands the final two have been used for testing and training and may not be upgraded.
The RMMV spent several years in a reliability growth program, meant to help the vehicle reach 75 hours mean time between failure. Though Navy and Lockheed Martin officials had previously said the vehicle was making improvements, the system did not meet reliability standards during at-sea testing in the summer of 2015, causing the Navy to pause its MCM mission package initial operational test and evaluation and eventually launch an independent review team to determine the fate of the RMMV.
Lockheed Martin spokesman John Torrisi said in a statement Friday evening that the RMMV is still the most advanced system to meet the Navy’s minehunting needs and that the issues experienced over the summer were not due to RMMV flaws but rather mission package integration issues.
“In 2015 the RMMV was tested within the LCS MCM mission package system of systems for the first time. The results demonstrated that RMS with RMMV not only finds mines, but test results confirmed that the mission package exceeded search rate goals with today’s RMMV. In other words, the system finds mines at a rate faster than required,” he said.
“Joint U.S. Navy and Lockheed Martin assessment teams largely attributed the RMMV reliability issues experienced during testing to mission package integration issues, vehicle configuration and maintenance shortcomings. Lockheed Martin recognizes the challenging role the Navy has as systems integrator for the mission packages and will continue to provide support including upgrading vehicles, establishing a class maintenance plan, resolving integration challenges, and training proficient operators and technicians to deliver a reliable RMMV system to the fleet.”
The full statement from Navy spokeswoman Capt. Thurraya Kent:
On February 24, 2016, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition and the Chief of Naval Operations concurred with the Independent Review Team’s (IRT) recommendations. The IRT recommended an approach which:
. Halts procurement of the follow-on RMMV (Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP)-2).
. Addresses existing RMMV V6.0 LRIP-1 and RMS support system deficiencies.
. Pursues the most promising near term technologies to accomplish the MCM mission and enhance current legacy mine countermeasures (MCM) capability, leveraging knowledge gained from Urgent Operational Need Systems currently being operated within Fifth Fleet.
. Exercises MCM capability from LCS and other platforms to refine concepts of operation and systems.
. Integrates improved RMMV V6.0 vehicles and supporting systems on the LCS-2 variant.
. Deploys the MCM MP Increment I (2 packages) on LCS-2 variants to gain operational experience and lessons learned (similar to the approach used for CVN Anti-Torpedo Torpedo Defense System).
. Evaluates and competes through FY19 Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), RMMV and Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) technology for long term incorporation within the MCM MP program of record.
. Executes Developmental Testing (DT) and Operational Testing (OT) to support MCM MP Initial Operational Capability (IOC) (FY19/20).
. Establishes within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) an Integrated Product Team (IPT) for mine warfare capability, led by OPNAV N95.
. Evaluates reorganization options within PEO LCS to provide sufficient management focus on minehunting.
The CNO and ASN(RD&A) have directed the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N9) and the Program Executive Officer, Littoral Combat Ship to develop an implementation plan that executes the IRT recommendations. The plan will coordinate experimentation, technology maturation, concept of operations and concept of employment development, and industry and Fleet engagement leading to a supportable supportable MCM capability, tested and delivered to the Fleet before legacy systems reach end of life.
The Navy will, based on the IRT recommendations, re-evaluate the system used for volume and bottom minehunting in the MCM MP. The Navy will take RMMV assets it has (LRIP-1), conduct the overhauls and upgrades as specified by the IRT, as well as take corrective actions for support systems such as vehicle communications, and deploy on up to two LCS-2 variants to gain operational experience and lessons learned.
The Navy will evaluate and compete three capabilities to perform the volume and bottom minehunting function for the MCM MP:
. RMS with improved RMMV V6.0 vehicles (LRIP-1)
. Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV) with the AQS-20 or AQS-25 towed sensor
. Knifefish Unmanned Underwater Vehicle
The Navy also determined it had insufficient knowledge of the follow-on Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV), known as LRIP-2, to recommend continuing with procurement. Therefore, the Navy has halted procurement activity for LRIP-2 and will work with the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics on program options for the RMMV Program.
In the meantime, the Navy will use the existing RMMVs as a transition capability. The Navy will complete planned upgrades of the existing (LRIP-1) RMMVs to the current configuration (four are upgraded; two are in progress; two more will commence, for a total of eight). This will provide four MCM MPs which will be available to support MCM MP deployments on LCS-2 variants in FY 2018. These RMMVs will include correction of deficiencies identified by the IRT to improve reliability.
The other MCM MP systems evaluated during TECHEVAL, the helicopter-borne Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS), both performed well and will continue. The plan for fielding the remainder of the MCM MP systems, including COBRA for Beach Zone Mine Detection, CUSV + mine sweeping (Unmanned Influence Sweep System- UISS) for Influence Minesweeping, and Knifefish for buried/high clutter Minehunting remains on schedule, with an acceleration of Knifefish being considered. These systems add capability in other portions of the water column or other portions of the MCM detect-to-engage sequence and are not dependent on RMMV to continue their efforts.