Navy puts its New Mine-Hunting System to the Test

Mike O'Brien

The reliability of the U.S. Navy’s remote mine-hunting system for Littoral Combat Ships has been vastly improved following a series of tests off the coast of Palm Beach in Florida.

The remote mine-hunting system (RMS), consists of a semi-submersible with a variable depth sonar that is designed to track down mines in both shallow and deep water.

The Navy used a test-fix-test approach in which the system was put through a series of different scenarios designed to challenge its electronic, hydraulic and navigational capabilities.

Steve Lose, who manages the RMS program for the Navy, said the reliability testing helped to lower the average time the system failed between missions, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the technology

He told "Getting through this was really important to the whole progression of the program and efforts to get the system fielded to the fleet.

"The big plus is what RMS is going to bring to the mission and keep sailors and ships out of the mine field.

"We looked at previously identified failure modes, tested, did an analysis, then fixed the design for reliability."

The semi-submersible is propelled by a diesel engine, but hydraulic systems are needed for control. The tests led to improvements in hydraulic systems that help the semi-submersible turn, remain stable and change depth.

"We improved the overall capacity of the hydraulic system," he said. "The vehicle is heavily dependent upon hydraulics."

The testing was carried out by the Navy, the mine-hunting system manufacturer Lockheed Martin and independent technical experts.

As part of its contract with the Navy, Lockheed will upgrade semi-submersibles on as many as 10 ships and integrate communications systems that will allow sailors to operate two of the submersibles at the same time.