WASHINGTON — February's cancellation of further development and procurement of the Remote Minehunting System (RMS) killed off the largest element of the US Navy's future mine countermeasures (MCM) capabilities. Now, the US Navy is setting up a new mine governance board to help set in motion the recommendations of the independent review team that recommended RMS cancellation.
The body will be led by the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems (N9) — currently filled in an acting capacity by civilian Brian Persons — and the principal military advisoer to the Navy’s acquisition directorate, Vice Adm. David Johnson. Marine Major General Maj. Gen. Chris Owens Robert Walsh, director of expeditionary warfare (N95) will also be involved, sources said.The effort is still being defined, Navy officials said, and no charter has been approved. But some aspects of the board already are becoming apparent.
Membership in the group is still being determined, a Navy official said, but will include Norfolk-based Commander Fleet Forces Command (CFFC). San Diego’s Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC)Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC), which normally oversees MCM activities, does not appear to be central to the effort.
Among the items the board will oversee is the Common Unmanned Surface Vessel (CUSVCSUV), a small craft that would carry MCM systems such as the AQS-20 or AQS-245 towed sensor, and the Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) built by Bluefin Robotics/General Dynamics. Textron is building CUSVs to carry the Navy's Unmanned Influence Sweep System.
The RMS and its Remote Multimission Vehicle (RMMV) were the key elements in the mine warfare package developed for littoral combat ships (LCS). A CUSV or similar system may be developed as an interim solution, but a full MCM operational capability for LCS is now further delayed. As a result, the Navy may have to figure a way to extend its remaining 11 Avenger-class MCM vessels and their onboard systems, all of which were to have been replaced by new LCSs with mine package modules. Most of the MCMs are forward deployed, to the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf and to Japan with the Seventh Fleet.
RMMVs built by Lockheed Martin for the RMS will remain in use, despite the cancellation of further units. Most of the RMMVs will be refurbished, one source said, and sent to the Fifth Fleet for use. Another RMMV is to deploy next year aboard the LCS Independence when she deploys to the Persian Gulf in 2017.
Sources said that while the use of the existing RMMVs is fine, there are concerns that too many dollars could find their way to the semi-defunct program, money that could be better spent on alternatives.
Navy sources cautioned that the mine board has yet to be officially established, and its parameters and schedules remain under development.
"As part of the implementation of the Remote Minehunting System Independent Review Team (IRT) recommendations, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition) established a governance board to ensure all elements within the Navy are aligned and on task for delivering an affordable and capable mine countermeasures capability to the Fleet," Navy spokesperson Lt. Amber Lynn Daniel said in an April 29 email to Defense News.
"The governance board is co-chaired by OPNAV N9 and the Principal Military Deputy to the ASN (RD&A). The charter and membership of this body is in development but will leverage the expertise of the Navy's MCM community and the findings of the IRT in order to reset the Navy's approach to mine warfare."
This story was originally published May 4, 2016, at 1720