Littoral Combat Ship's MCM Package Moves Forward
The long-awaited mine countermeasures (MCM) system for the Littoral Combat Ship made a significant step forward on January 14 when USS Independence completed shipboard integration testing with two more "mission package" elements.
The two systems — the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) and the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) — are a subset of the seven components required for the Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship to carry out its mine countermeasures mission. The complete package has experienced significant delays, and the Navy anticipates that it will not be ready for a full-scale initial operational test until 2021 - 11 years after the first Independence-class ship was commissioned.
During the recent tests, the two systems demonstrated their comms link with the mother ship and executed multiple launch and recovery evolutions. The Navy's LCS Mission Module Program unit described this as a sugnificant milestone: all vehicle components have now been tested aboard the Independence-class LCS.
Last year, the DoD Inspector General found that the Navy declared that three of the other components were ready for an initial operating capability before demonstrating that they were "effective and suitable." These elements included two helicopter-mounted components, ALMDS and AMNS, and the COBRA Block I coastal battlefield reconnaissance and analysis system, an unmanned aerial vehicle payload. "As a result, the Navy delivered units that have known performance problems to the fleet for use aboard the Littoral Combat Ship and other platforms," the DOD IG concluded.
Like the other LCS mission packages, the complete minehunting package was originally intended to be modular and "swappable" so that the LCS could carry out many different tasks. However, according to a GAO analysis, the battlefield "swap" time could be as long as three weeks due to port transits, special tools and specialized personnel required for loading out each package. The Navy has decided to deemphasize this feature in favor of specialized squadrons, each focused on one of three mission areas. As part of a broader reorganization for the LCS program, the vessels have been sorted into four-ship divisions, each focused on a single warfare area – surface warfare, mine warfare or anti-submarine warfare.