Home » Budget Industry » Navy’s Remote Minehunting System Officially Canceled, Sonar May Live On

Navy’s Remote Minehunting System Officially Canceled, Sonar May Live On

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 PENTAGON — The Navy has officially canceled the Remote Minehunting System acquisition program, but the AN/AQS-20A advanced minehunting sonar within the RMS program may live on in another capacity, a senior defense official told reporters Thursday.

The Navy originally planned to buy 54 RMSs for its Littoral Combat Ship mine countermeasures mission package. It has bought 10 so far and will not award a contract to Lockheed Martin for additional vehicles, the service announced Feb. 26. Service officials said then that the Navy would upgrade most of the 10 Remote Multimission Vehicles – the unmanned vehicle at the center of RMS – and ultimately compete it 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.

On Thursday the senior defense official said that future Navy budget requests would contain funding lines for an unmanned vehicle to tow minehunting sonar, since the requirement for an unmanned vehicle to search for mines still exists, but decisions haven’t been made yet about what that future vehicle might be. Though the AQS-20A sonar has performed well in testing, the Navy has not formally decided if the future unmanned vehicle will tow the Q-20 or another sensor.

Still, the official said it was likely that the sonar could live on. The Navy and Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall are in discussions about whether the sonar would become its own program within the mine countermeasures mission package, be folded in with another existing acquisition program, or something else. There are no immediate plans to buy more sonars, the official said, giving the Navy and Defense Department time to figure out the best path forward.

The official said canceling the RMS program after just 10 vehicles saved the Navy about $750 million, though the Navy will still have to buy more vehicles eventually. The cancelation technically triggered a Nunn-McCurdy breach, since curtailing the program led the per-unit cost to spike – initial development costs were spread over 10 instead of 54 vehicles – though the official said the breach is in name only.

Also in the Pentagon’s 2015 Selected Acquisition Reports, which outlined the RMS Nunn-McCurdy breach, are cost updates on several Navy shipbuilding programs. The reports include information on all acquisition costs – research and development, procurement, and program-specific military construction and operations and sustainment.

The Ford-class aircraft carrier program increased in cost by about 2.6 percent, mostly due to the addition of nearly a billion dollars in advance procurement funding for CVN-81 and $161 million in Ford Class Design for Affordability research and development investments. The report notes the increases were offset by about $252 million in efficiencies expected in the future Enterprise (CVN-80) and other cost decreases.

For the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers, program costs increased primarily due to buying four more ships since the previous year. The LCS program increased in cost by about $7 billion, or 32 percent, from buying eight more ships and incorporating survivability and lethality enhancements into the frigate upgrade. On the Virginia-class submarines, cost increased about $5 billion, or 5 percent, due to buying an additional boat, adding additional Virginia Payload Modules into the planned Block V, developing an acoustic superiority program and other research and development efforts.

A second senior defense official told reporters that quantity increases do not count as cost growth – and though technically the research and development additions count as program growth, they are expected to lead to more capability or lower acquisition costs in the future and therefore do not reflect badly on the program.

  • MarlineSpikeMate

    Good riddance. The launching and retrieving mechanism epitomized ridiculousness.

    • gunnerv1

      And appeared to be Hazardous to Operators (Launch/Recovery Personnel) and Equipment alike. I remember to old SQS-32 system on my DDG’s in the 70’s and 80’s, they we the same as far as Hazards go. Gunner’s Mates were responsible for it simply because it was “Hydraulically” Operated (“Launch/Recovery Equipment”) (Adams Class DDG on the Weather Deck, Knox Class DE/FF interior of Stern). USN Retired, ’64-’86.

  • Ctrot

    And the toothless LCS becomes more so.

    • MarlineSpikeMate

      Not really, just being replaced with something more reliable, much easier to launch, and already developed..

      • DaveLCAC

        Sure! RMS has been trying to achieve exactly that for years, where is the fairy dust box.

        • MarlineSpikeMate

          Look up the CUSV… been working well.

          • USNVO

            And, it can actually be manned if, for instance, the CO doesn’t want to risk the boat running into some poor fisherman during a peacetime exercise. Or, if there was a casualty that prevented remote operation.

  • Andy

    LCS, the Gift That Keeps On Giving. Wondering how the PEO will spin this latest in a continuing line of disasters?

  • @USS_Fallujah

    I think the MCM LCS/FFE package will quietly go away. You’ll have one platform optimized for ASW (Independence) and one for SuWa (Freedom). The FFE still needs a better AAW capability, at least enough VLS for ESSM – relying on SeaRam for point defense makes any operation away from DDG escorts a suicide mission.

    • sferrin

      Considering SeaRAM only carries 11 missiles (about half that if they use Block II missiles), you are dead right. I’m curious to know how one can be “optimized for ASW” with no actual ASW weapons or “optimized for surface attack” with nothing but a little pop gun. What a joke.

      • CuddlyCobra

        The anti surface plan is to add some naval strike missiles. Whether they will be able to engage with the sensor/software issues remains to be seen.

        The ASW plan is to use the helicopters for lightweight air torpedo delivery plus on board sonar plus towed array sonar.

        The problem is the weight/reserve buoyancy issues with the ship design and lightweight structure designed for speed. They will have to heavily modify the ASW equipment to get it to work, it is still in prototype but hopefully will be successful.

        Even if this is successful there will be logistics issues from the short range and fuel/weight capacity.

      • @USS_Fallujah

        I hate when anyone mentions LCS/FFE armament and goes to the gun, since it’s only intended for use against small boats it’s size is irrelevant (issues with rate of fire and stability ARE concerns), and the 5″ mount on all DDGs & CGs is equally irrelevant.

        If I had my way (and I won’t) all FFEs would get a (minimum) 8 cell VLS for ESSM and either ASROC (Independence) or LRASM (Freedom) The Independence would also get the tail & be optimized for the SH-60R. The Freedom would then get the NSM/Harpoon deck mounted, plus the Hellfire on the superstructure & be optimized for the MQ-8 Fire Scout.
        That’s making the best of a bad situation, if I REALLY had my way SecDef Carter would cancel all LCS not already contracted for an force Maybus to order a crash production of a FFG scale down of the Burke Class DDGs. I would love to know what the AoA price came to when that was rejected for the LCS.

  • sferrin

    Buy ships that depend in interchangeable weapons modules then cancel the modules. Brilliant.

  • uncaherb

    The current MCMs are fast approaching end of life cycle, already started retiring them and saving usable parts for spares…last time this happened we had a few 1950s MSOs in inventory and crash coarse designed replacements in the 80s. Means we plan to go blind to a cheap effective weapon that can be assembled in a garage to close ports and sea lanes. Expect another Sammy B. Roberts surprise and we start the whole cycle over again.

  • PolicyWonk

    Yet another unhappy chapter in the story that is the LCS program comes to a ignominious end…

    • USNVO

      RMS predated LCS by at least a decade. In fact, there are 6 DDGs with RMS hangers that will never be used.

  • John B. Morgen

    LCS are [NOT] minesweepers, but gun boats or sloops.

  • brutallyfrank

    LCS is a real jobs program — it’s all about keeping people employed by pouring money down a hole… these ships won’t go into any kind of combat.

    • sferrin

      It’s not a damn jobs program.

      • brutallyfrank

        oh sure it is… it’s all about keeping americans employed… that class of ship was created to be a jobs program… ask duncan hunter about the xcraft, that was a consolation prize for titan corp (a.k.a. L-3).

        congress uses defense, intelligence, homeland security, IT, cyber — as a jobs program, keeping americans employed.

        i bet if you added up all the people in the u.s. employed in some kind of “security” type job, including the military, police, emergency response, intelligence, private security, cyber, homeland security, DoD, DoD contractors, etc. — it would account for 50% or more of the employment in the U.S. and abroad.

        that is essentially an economic “tipping point”… if you classify this industry as “insurance” … we are way “over insured”… we are way too invested… especially when this industry doesn’t really produce anything of value… it’s not something a consumer can use, it’s not a consumable, or even an asset a company would want to hold onto that will appreciate.

  • DaveLCAC

    This is just one more step in a long planned program to downsize the Navy ships. The Navy did not want to pay for grey bottoms so they came up with this fantasy LCS that checked PowerPoint boxes and little else. Now they will gradually diminish it until it goes away and they have achieved their goal of reducing the number of ships. Good news is more money for welfare.

  • Murray

    Using 45 knot LCS as MCM vessels seems over the top. Why not just find a good off-the-shelf trawler design and modify it as necessary as a dedicated MCM ship capable of operating CUSV. During the Falklands War the Royal Navy requisitioned five deep sea trawlers to sweep mines laid by the Argentine Navy off Port Stanley. They did the job.