The US Navy is set to award General Dynamics a contract for low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the company’s Knifefish mine warfare unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) after the UUVs’ development programme was granted Milestone C approval following successful testing.
Formal developmental testing and an operational assessment conducted from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coasts of Massachusetts and Florida saw the UUVs take part in operational minehunting missions against a deployed, simulated target field.
Operations performed by fleet sailors during developmental testing and operational assessment included mission planning, launching and recovering the system, monitoring sorties, and processing data.
The UUVs were deployed from a support craft in the vessels of opportunity configuration for all test events in order to provide a characterisation of the performance of the entire Knifefish system, including the launch and recovery subsystem.
A full-rate production decision is expected in fiscal year 2022 after additional testing of LRIP systems.
The Knifefish system is designed for deployment from littoral combat ships (LCS), from vessels of opportunity, or from shore to detect and classify buried, bottom, and volume mines in high-clutter environments.
The system consists of two UUVs along with support systems and equipment including low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology. It acts as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside minefield boundaries.
The navy plans to procure 30 Knifefish systems in all: 24 in support of LCS Mine Countermeasure Mission Packages and an additional six systems for deployment from vessels of opportunity.
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