Military

US Military Watchdog: Navy Prematurely Declared Mine-Hunting Systems Ready For Combat

By Rich Abott | August 1, 2018
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170602-N-PD309-051 GULF OF THAILAND (June 2, 2017) An MQ-8B Firescout unmanned aerial vehicle takes off from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand. CARAT is a series of Pacific Command-sponsored, U.S Pacific Fleet-led bilateral exercises held annually in South and Southeast Asia to strengthen relationships and enhance force readiness. CARAT exercise events cover a broad range of naval skill areas and disciplines including surface, undersea, air, and amphibious warfare; maritime security operations; riverine, jungle, and explosive ordnance disposal operations; combat construction; diving and salvage; search and rescue; maritime patrol and reconnaissance aviation; maritime domain awareness; military law, public affairs and military medicine; and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Deven Leigh Ellis/Released)

A MQ-8B Firescout unmanned aircraft system takes off from the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Thailand. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

The U.S. Defense Department Inspector General (DOD IG) said the U.S. Navy improperly declared three littoral combat ship (LCS) mine countermeasures (MCM) mission packages ready for combat, including systems mounted on manned and unmanned rotorcraft that deploy aboard the vessels.

The DOD IG looked at three of seven systems planned to be used in LCS MCM mission packages to detect, localize and neutralize various mines, according to a July 25 report. The office focused on the Raytheon AN/ASQ‑235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS), Northrop Grumman Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) and Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) Block I systems, which the Navy had all declared met IOC.

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The LCS MCM mission packages are systems being developed to support counter-mine operations by using air assets as well as unmanned surface and underwater vehicles (USVs and UUVs). The AMNS is deployed and towed from MH-60S helicopters to neutralize bottom and moored mines using an expendable mine neutralization device; ALMDS is mounted on the MH-60S to detect, classify and localize near-surface mines; and COBRA is mission hardware and software to be used on the MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV that provide surface-laid minefield and obstacle detection in the beach zone.

The Inspector General’s office was investigating whether the Navy is effectively managing the development of the MCM mission packages. According to Defense Department regulations, IOC is supposed to be achieved when the selected user has been equipped and training and is determined to be capable of conducting mission operations.

In this case, the IG found the Navy declared IOC “prior to demonstrating that the systems were effective and suitable for their intended operational use.”

Specifically, the IG said this occurred for several reasons. First, the director of the Expeditionary Warfare Division (N95) declared IOC for the ALMDS and AMNS after officials from the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition (ASN-RDA) offices approved a plan to pursue IOC to gather data and lessons learned.

The report said N95 used the results of a technical evaluation and previous test events to justify IOC decisions without proving it corrected known performance problems. The IG underscored the Navy said the programs had not executed a complete initial operational test and evaluation as defined by IOC rules in the memorandums declaring IOC for ALMDS and AMNS.

“Therefore, the ALMDS and AMNS programs have not demonstrated that the systems are operationally effective and have met the requirements for declaring IOC.”

Moreover, N95 used data gathered during the first of five test periods to justify the IOC decision for COBRA Block I, despite the program not fully meeting a key performance parameter/prime requirement. The IG said it determined N95 declared the COBRA Block I system IOC to avoid requesting a sixth change to the IOC date, further delaying delivery of its capabilities to the fleet.

This article was originally published on sister publication Defense Daily.

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