Home » News & Analysis » UPDATED: Navy Will Not Buy More RMMVs, Will Compete 3 Unmanned Vehicles For Future Use

UPDATED: Navy Will Not Buy More RMMVs, Will Compete 3 Unmanned Vehicles For Future Use

Lockheed Martin’s Remote Multi Mission Vehicle in 2010. US Navy Photo

Lockheed Martin’s Remote Multi Mission Vehicle in 2010. US Navy Photo

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.”

Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. Textron photo.

Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. Textron photo.

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.

  • El_Sid

    Just accept that this is one of those areas where Europe is way ahead of the US, buy MOTS from Thales or Atlas, and save the development dollars for something else where the US does have a technological lead.

  • Don Bacon

    That’s a huge blow to LCS — mine-hunting is intended to be the primary combat mission of the ship.

  • magic3400

    I don’t know who designed this POS, but they should never be allowed to design another piece of hardware for the military again. This thing never stood of chance of succeeding, it was garbage from day one.

    • Mauvais Garcon

      Lockheed has made billions putzing around like this. Just look at the F-35

  • PolicyWonk

    “Get it out there as quickly as you can…
    Thats right, Ray!

    Get ’em out there fast – before the taxpayers find out what a reaming they’ve taken!

    Yet another sad chapter in the soap opera that is the LCS program.

  • Mauvais Garcon

    Another rodding of the American taxpayer by Lockheed. There needs to be significant penalties included in all military contracts if the promised performance is not delivered in a reasonable margin. AND, once the contract amount is set the contractor is obligated to make up shortcomings in THEIR design from their own pockets.

  • Corporatski Kittenbot 2.0

    This is just to allow the programme to focus on its primary missions.
    – Drain taxpayers of their money.
    – Provide frequent and passive target practice for the Chinese navy.

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    We should note that on June 21st, 2013, the RMMV passed Navy reliability tests… Which goes to show these test are worthless, as the Navy tailors them to pass.

  • Marcd30319

    ” … Will Compete 3 Unmanned Vehicles …”

    Don’t you mean complete?

    Doesn’t anyone edit their content for syntax and typos on this news blog?

    • Wardog00

      This is not a typo; they mean they are going to put the 4 different unmanned vehicles into a procurement competition. Poor grammar, but not a mistake.

      • Marcd30319

        And that’s an improvement?

        And poor grammar and syntax is not a mistake?

        • El_Sid

          Unfortunately the use of compete as a transitive verb is accepted jargon in some quarters. I guess it’s a back-formation from “competition”, which puts it in the same class as other USian verbs-from-nouns. “Medalling” at the Olympics is the one that always makes me cringe.

      • Tim Cich

        To recompete the last 3 units will cost more money. If someone other than LMCO wins the contract, they will have to tool up their production facility. Then there will be the learning curve to operate and test. Not to mention the special test platform required. The navy is doing this to squeeze LMCO. I would laugh if LMCO didn’t bid and washed their hands of the whole thing.

        • El_Sid

          The usual bluster and threats from a company that’s used to “squeezing” the USN from a monopoly position. Unfortunately in this case it won’t work, as Atlas and Thales both have solutions in the water that actually deliver.

          • Tim Cich

            The issue is that their solutions don’t have all the capabilities that the LMCO vehicle has. Their sub surface solution is connected via cable to the surface which means bringing the platform in close to the area of interest. Besides, it is obvious that you really have no ideas about the tech difficulty of not only finding mines, but also destroying them from a safe distance. The new generation of mines are hidden in stealth type containers that sit on the floor and blend in using composite materials in order to reduce the magnetic signature. Besides, both the companies that you mention were no where to be found back around 2000 when LMCO pioneered this radical approach to this problem. It’s easy to sit back and copy some one whose has already done the heavy lifting so to speak. When their solution can do the same things, let us know.

  • Guest

    “Anything that tastes good with capers,” the saying goes, “tastes better without them.” The exact opposite is true for boats: Any idea that’s workable for an unmanned vehicle, will work better with a few Sailors onboard.

    There are many reasons why UAVs are so successful: the size, weight, and fragility of pilots and life-support systems, G-force limitations, the ability to send cheap expendables into harm’s way.

    None of those factors are present on the surface.

    Think of the difficulties with RMMV: launch and recovery, slow-speed contact avoidance, drifting after loss of contact. Each is a complex, multimillion-dollar engineering challenge with an as-yet-elusive solution – yet take off the “unmanned” blinders, and each is well within the capabilities of a competent E5 with a two-week school.

    “But people cost money!” We can’t find one coxswain and one systems operator in a detachment of 15-20? Having the sensor operator onboard would create in-stride capability, rather than waiting hours to days for post-mission analysis.

    “Man out of the minefield!” Signature reduction is a much easier problem with an 11m vessel than a 68m. If it hasn’t been solved, we shouldn’t be sending a multimillion dollar vessel with all the ship’s mission capability into the MTA even if it’s unmanned. Besides, we don’t know where the minefield is until someone locates it.

    Time to jettison ppt-deep sloganeering, and THINK through these problems.

  • Tim Cich

    I was involved with this program for many years all the way back to when it was The RMS program at LMCO. There is blame to go around. The NAVY froze the HW and SW base line of the program using COTS that went obsolete. They then refused to buy up front the required items and spares. Then when they asked for the cost of the next few vehicles and some spares, the price had jumped as the parts were no longer in production and the few that were out there had doubled in cost. The OTH radios that were required by contract were unable to support the real time data rate needed to control the RMV OTH. This then restricted the vehicle to LOS. I could go on and on about other issues, but I think you get the idea. I’m retired and have been away from the program for a couple of years, but still talk with engineers on the program. So before you all go bashing the Contractor, you should get all the facts straight before you try and drag a company’s name thru the mud because you really don’t know what your talking about.

    • El_Sid

      The NAVY froze the HW and SW base line of the program using COTS that went obsolete.

      Competent project management would have recognised the risk of that happening with COTS kit and designed for ease of substitution. And producing kit that actually worked first time would have reduced the delays that caused the obsolescence.

      They then refused to buy up front the required items and spares.
      An entrepreneurial company could have done that themselves, then made a profit on billing at market value.

      So before you all go bashing the Contractor, you should get all the
      facts straight before you try and drag a company’s name thru the mud
      because you really don’t know what your talking about.

      Conversely you come across as though everyone’s to blame EXCEPT Lockheed. Let’s recall some of the DOT&E comments :

      On four occasions during TECHEVAL, RMMV failures precluded LCS 2 from controlling the movements of an off-board RMMV….

      Even though test minefields are deliberately planned to reduce the risk of RMS striking a mine target or becoming entangled in its mooring cable, the RMS has snagged several tethered mines, and other surface and underwater objects during testing. These incidents often cause damage to the vehicle or its deployed sonar that leaves the system inoperable… the AN/AQS-20 does not trail directly behind the RMMV when deployed to tactical minehunting depths. Instead, the sensor tows to starboard of the RMMV path. This offset causes the RMS to behave like a mine sweeping system as the sonar and its tow cable passes through the water, thereby increasing the risk of snagging a tethered mine…

      The RMS program has not yet demonstrated that the AN/AQS-20A operating in its tactical single pass modes can meet its detection and classification requirements against deep water targets moored near the ocean bottom, near-surface moored mines that are not detected by the ALMDS, or stealthy bottom mines….

      …the RMS’s AN/AQS-20A sensor does not meet Navy requirements for contact depth localization accuracy or false classification density…

      …RMMV acoustic radiated noise measurements, last collected during developmental testing in 2007/2008, indicated that existing RMMVs might be vulnerable to some mines…

      • Tim Cich

        First of all, your statement shows the lack of understanding Gov Contracts. If any gov contractor decided to take a risk and spend millions of their own money buying HW/SW for a program that was running on a shoe string budget, it would have to have a belief that the program was stable enough and the gov was committed to a long term buy. These were not the case with this program. Second, when the gov issues you a RFP “Request For Proposal” for the cost of another unit. You must show all your costing with back up data. Your not allowed to mark up material simply because you for saw the long term need and had it on hand. You only can get your initial investment plus the agreed upon profit mark up in the contract. You don’t make a dime on this kind of deal as the long term cost of material storage and management is usually a negative. Corp has very strict rules when doing this and only in extreme situation’s is it allowed. I was involved deeply in these type of issues as I managed the Capital / R&D / B&P and Expense Budgets for 2 LOB’s in Syracuse. You also have never had experience with the gov awarding you the contract and then making changes to it while at the same time not providing the proper level of funding. When a company submits a proposal for a contract, they can spend millions preparing the proposal to meet gov specs. If they don’t win the contract, they eat that cost. So the gov comes in and wants to make changes to your proposal such as adding features and using material that you hadn’t planed on, while keeping the price the same. You are then forced to make apple’s try to talk to oranges. The gov always try’s to get something for nothing and if you complain, they just tell you that the follow on contract for production is up in the air. You don’t make profit off the initial dev program. You make the money off the long term production contracts after showing that your system works. LMCO’s fault in this program was that in order to keep it sold and from shutting down, they allowed it to stay on company life support that allowed the gov time to come up with the answer concerning if the LCS ships were even going to be built in bulk in the first place. This was a very difficult program and you speak as if you have never worked in the DOD / MOD environment. Don’t even get me going about the MOD and how they get the US companies to design and develop systems for them with the promise of production contracts, only to have the MOD take the proven design and give the work to a UK company.