LCS may actually get their drone minesweeper, afterall

The idea behind the littoral combat ship program is that it would take the place of the aging de-fanged Oliver Hazard Perry-class FFs– which had their original missile batteries neutered– as well as the Navy’s mine countermeasure vessels.

While the first could be done through with the light armament (57mm Mk110, Sea-RAM, small arms) and embarked helicopters/UAVs coupled (hopefully) with some sort of modular towed array, the latter required a legit standoff minesweeping vehicle as an LCS, with their steel hulls, is less than ideal for that.

That’s where Textron comes in, producing a 40-foot semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminum surface craft, rigged to tow the same sweep gear used by the MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters and/or ROVs.

The company on Thursday announced the U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) program, which is based on its Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV), has achieved a Milestone C decision. The decision allows the program to enter low-rate initial production (LRIP), with the Navy planning to award three UISS systems to Textron Systems under their existing contract.

The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), based on Textron’s CUSV. It tows the modified Mk-104 system acoustic generator and a magnetic minesweeping cable.

More from NAVSEA:

The Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) has granted Milestone C approval to the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) program. The decision clears the way for low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the system, PEO USC announced Feb. 26, 2020.

The Navy plans to exercise options for the procurement of three LRIP systems on the current Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract with UISS prime contractor Textron Systems.

Designed for the littoral combat ship (LCS) as part of the mine countermeasures mission package, the UISS consists of a mine countermeasures unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and a towed minesweeping payload for influence sweeping of magnetic, acoustic and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types. UISS can also be launched from vessels of opportunity or from shore.

Formal Developmental Testing and Operational Assessment of UISS took place off the coast of South Florida and successfully concluded in late November 2019. Testing included a series of end-to-end minesweeping missions against simulated mine targets using the Navy Instrumented Threat Targets training system.

LCS Detachment Sailors performed operations during Developmental Testing and Operational Assessment that included shore-based launch and retrieval of the system, command, and control, mission planning and post-mission analysis. The UISS USV also has completed initial integration tests with the LCS and vessels of opportunity.

Textron Systems was awarded an EMD contract in October 2014 for the UISS, based on its Common USV. The Navy exercised options for two additional vehicles in 2017, which were delivered in 2018 in support of the comprehensive Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle program that will leverage the UISS USV for missions that include minehunting and mine neutralization.

Textron is expected to begin the delivery of LRIP systems in fiscal 2021.

The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) heads offshore at sunrise for an Operational Assessment mission off the coast of South Florida in November 2019.

The Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS), November 2019. 200226-N-IJ355-001

The nuts and bolts of the contract announcement:

AAI Corp. (doing business as Textron Systems), Hunt Valley, Maryland, is awarded a $21,795,236 fixed-price incentive modification to previously awarded contract N00024-14-C-6322 for low rate initial production for the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) Unmanned Surface Vehicle Program. Work will be performed in Hunt Valley, Maryland (70%), and Slidell, Louisiana (30%), and is expected to be completed by August 2021. The UISS will allow the littoral combat ship to perform its mine countermeasure sweep mission and will target acoustic, magnetic, and magnetic/acoustic combination mine types. The UISS program will satisfy the Navy’s need for a rapid, wide-area coverage mine clearance capability, required to neutralize magnetic/acoustic influence mines. UISS seeks to provide a high area coverage rate in a small, lightweight package with minimal impact on the host platform. Fiscal 2018 other procurement (Navy) and fiscal 2019 other procurement (Navy) funding in the amount of $21,795,236 will be obligated at the time of the award. Funds in the amount of $7,950,616 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

In directly related news, Northrop Grumman’s AQS-24 mine hunting sonar completing initial in-water testing of a next-generation Deploy and Retrieval (D&R) payload. “Operated from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV), the AQS-24 D&R demonstrates the unmanned operations needed to perform a mine-hunting mission off the MCM Mission Package aboard the littoral combat ship (LCS).”

It looks pretty swag.

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