Congress not impressed with LCS mine hunting program
The Littoral Combat Ship is a sausage program that was envisioned to replace the Navy’s diverse minehunters/sweepers, frigates and patrol craft with 50+ ships on a single hull that could do it all (after all, any ship can be a minesweeper once, right?) through a series of plug-and-play modules.
Well what we have almost 20 years into the program are two hulls (Freedom and Independence classes) that can do some of the same tasks as the frigates and patrol craft (except for ASuW or ASW against a modern opponent), but there’s a thing about that $706 million mine module program…
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.”
Worse, the Navy put their low-mileage Osprey-class coastal minehunter (with some hulls just being eight years old) on the chopping block back in 2007 (Taiwan, Egypt and Greece picked them up lighting fast) and is planning on retiring the Avenger-class mine sweepers and vaunted MH-53 Sea Dragon MCM helos in just a few years, making the LCS/MCM program “it” for U.S. Navy mine sweeping.