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    HomeMilitaryU.S. Navy Advances with Unmanned Vessels in Modern Mine Countermeasures

    U.S. Navy Advances with Unmanned Vessels in Modern Mine Countermeasures

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    In a significant step toward modernizing its mine countermeasure capabilities, the U.S. Navy is forging ahead with the integration of cutting-edge unmanned systems. On April 18, the Navy announced the successful embarkation of the first Mine Countermeasures Mission Package (MCM MP) aboard the USS Canberra (LCS 30), marking a pivot from legacy platforms to more advanced and versatile approaches in addressing naval mine threats.

    The integration of the MCM mission package on the Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) heralds a new era where sailors will be distanced from minefields, enhancing their safety and operational effectiveness.

    According to Capt. Matthew Lehmann, program manager of the LCS Mission Modules program office, “The LCS Mission Modules program delivers to the fleet a modernized and integrated MCM mission package that removes Sailors from the minefield and allows for the future retirement of legacy MCM ships.”

    CV-22 and MH-53” by BoyerAir is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    This transition also sets the stage for the retirement of aging MH-53 helicopters and Avenger Class MCM ships as the new technology takes over.

    040710-N-6551H-092 Pacific Ocean (July 10, 2004) – The High Speed Vessel (HSV) 2 Swift prepares to conduct a replenishment at sea (RAS) with the mine warfare ship USS Avenger (MCM 1) during exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2004. Swift is a wave-piercing aluminum-hulled catamaran that can move at speeds greater than 45 knots. With a draft allowing it to navigate in only 12 feet of water it can easily maneuver in and out of littoral environments. RIMPAC is the largest international maritime exercise in the waters around the Hawaiian Islands. This yearÕs exercise includes seven participating nations; Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, South Korea, United Kingdom and United States. RIMPAC is intended to enhance the tactical proficiency of participating units in a wide array of combined operations at sea, while enhancing stability in the Pacific Rim region. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Michelle R. Hammond (RELEASED) For more information go to: http://www.cpf.navy.mil/RIMPAC2004/

    The MCM MP, which reached Initial Operational Capability on March 31, 2023, comprises an integrated suite of unmanned maritime systems and sensors designed to locate, identify, and neutralize mines.

    USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) conducts routine operations in the South China Sea.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Such capabilities are critical in littoral areas where naval mines can pose significant risks to U.S. naval operations and allied shipping. The LCS, equipped with the MCM mission package, is now able to conduct a full spectrum of mine countermeasure operations from detection to engagement, using various assets like the MCM Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) and the MH-60S multi-mission helicopter.

    New Orleans: Bollinger Algiers – Miss Darby” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Meanwhile, the Navy’s collaboration with industry partners like Bollinger Shipyards is pivotal in realizing its vision for autonomous mine countermeasure vessels. The U.S. Navy has awarded Bollinger, alongside HII Unmanned Systems and Raytheon Technologies, the contract to build the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV). This autonomous vessel is poised to play a critical role in both minesweeping and mine hunting missions.

    English/Anglais
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    14 Aug 2011
    Shearwater, Nova Scotia

    “Bollinger is honored to be entrusted by the U.S. Navy to engineer and build the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle program,” said Ben Bordelon, President and CEO of Bollinger Shipyards.“Bollinger’s skilled workforce is second to none and will work to build and deliver this advanced capability to our Nation’s fleet using the highest levels of craftsmanship and quality that we have come to be known for. We are proud to partner with HII Unmanned Systems and Raytheon Technologies to build a state-of-the-art, multi-mission unmanned surface vehicle capable of both hunting and sweeping naval mines to support and protect the men and women of the U.S. Navy and our allies around the world.”

    Sailors run towards the foul line after finishing a chock and chain evolution on two MH-53E helicopters.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    The urgency for such technological advancements is underscored by the Navy’s current dependence on the dwindling fleet of Avenger-class ships and MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters, which are nearing the end of their service life.

    Lt. Meagan Morrison, a Navy public affairs officer, emphasized that “the Navy will comply with 2021 NDAA requirements before retiring legacy MCM mine countermeasure platforms. Those retirements are based on fielding expeditionary modular MCM capabilities and not on a target date.”

    Littoral Combat Ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)” by SurfaceWarriors is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    However, the challenge of adapting to a future dominated by unmanned systems is not without concerns. Anthony Freedman, a senior research scientist with the Center for Naval Analyses, highlighted that the forthcoming systems may not be optimally suited for contested environments.

    Freedman and others within the Navy recognize the importance of developing a single platform capable of both detecting and neutralizing mobile mines, which could be critical in dynamic threat scenarios.

    The Navy’s strategic focus is also shifting towards covert mine-laying capabilities, potentially giving the U.S. an asymmetric edge in conflicts.

    USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) fires its 5-inch Mark 45 lightweight gun.” by Official U.S. Navy Imagery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    General Dynamics Mission Systems, for example, has been contracted to deliver prototypes of the Hammerhead moored anti-submarine mine, which, when activated, can autonomously release a Mark 54 lightweight hybrid homing torpedo against adversary submarines.

    Recent exercises have showcased the use of Air Force B-1B bombers to deploy Quickstrike airborne mines, indicating continued development of advanced mine warfare strategies.

    Relevant articles:
    U.S. Navy Announces First Mine Countermeasures Mission Package Embarked on USS Canberra, United States Navy (.mil)
    BOLLINGER SHIPYARDS AWARDED U.S. NAVY CONTRACT TO BUILD MINE COUNTERMEASURES UNMANNED SURFACE VEHICLE, Bollinger Shipyards
    Navy Mine Warfare Teeters Between Present, Future, National Defense Magazine

    The U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship Could Soon Be on the Comeback Trail

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