The U.S. Navy will begin developing a modern unmanned surface vehicle that can host mine hunting, sweeping and neutralization payloads on littoral combat ships, USNI News reported Wednesday.
The effort comes after the Defense Department permitted the service to replace its aging Avenger-class MCM vessel and MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters with a new USV that can also accommodate surveillance, counter piracy and anti-submarine warfare systems.
The Navy is currently testing Raytheon’s AN/AQS-20C towed sonar on Textron Systems' Common USV as part of the MCM modernization initiative, according to Pete Small, program manager for unmanned maritime systems at the Naval Sea Systems Command.
Small said during the National Defense Industrial Association’s Expeditionary Warfare Conference that Raytheon is expected to ship 10 sonars to the service in early 2019 for integration on the new MCM warship.
The LCS MCM package will also involve procuring CUSVs to tow the Unmanned Influence Sweep System, which will produce signals to detonate sound-activated mines.
NAVSEA aims to participate in a competitive acquisition program for the MCM USV in early 2020.