The Navy completed technical evaluation and training of the remote minehunting system (RMS) aboard USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) in July 28.
The evaluation enables the Navy to continue training on the system, designed as part of the mine warfare mission package for the Littoral Combat Ship.
"This is all in preparation for the operational evaluation (OPEVAL) to be conducted in the South Florida Test Facility this September," said Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City RMS Project Engineer Keith Hartless.
Senior Chief Mineman Paul King of Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Detachment 1 praised RMS as cutting-edge technology during his pierside preparations.
"This is the future in the making," said King. "I've been working in mine warfare for at least 15 years and this is some of the most advanced equipment I've seen."
Since mines are a significant threat to today's battle groups, destroyers have traditionally been first to enter coastal regions ahead of their battle groups. According to Hartless, the RMS will provide a reconnaissance capability that far surpasses traditional methods of mine hunting and will exponentially increase the safety factor for ship and crew.
"In the past, we did our reconnaissance leading with our nose, so to speak, and when our first ship encountered a mine, that became the 'heads-up' to call in our dedicated MCM ships and MH-53E minehunting helicopter squadrons," said Hartless.
Hartless noted the RMS is a system of systems that provides a remote and semi-autonomous capability to go into anticipated operational areas and do reconnaissance for mine threats prior to any manned ship entering the area.
"The RMS is actually comprised of five subsystems," said Hartless. "There is the Remote Minehunting Vehicle (RMV); the AN/AQS-20A (Q-20) towed sensor for minehunting detection and identification; the launch and recovery system; the data link system – half of which is on the RMV, the other half positioned aboard ship; and the software, called the Remote Minehunting Functional Segment (RMFS), which resides within the combat system aboard ship."
While pierside at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, King described how these systems worked together to hunt, detect, and locate mines.
"Inside the RMV, there is a cable that can lower the Q-20 towed sonar body," said King. "Or, the Q-20 can function while hull mounted to the RMV. The Q-20 is usually streamed out to hunt using its sensors, it then transmits its signals back to us, we see the images in real time on consoles aboard ship, and then we also record the data so we can then perform post-mission analysis."
According to Hartless, once the RMS proves itself during operational evaluation it is destined to become a featured component as part of the mine warfare (MIW) mission package and the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) package aboard one of the Navy's newest platforms – the LCS.
"The MIW mission package will be comprised of two RMSs – each able to operate in tandem and effectively doubling the search area and rate," Hartless said, adding that the ASW mission package will also ultimately receive two similar remote vehicles.
"The ASW mission module also receives two RMVs except we're changing the nomenclature to remote multi-mission vehicles (RMMV) because it will be carrying ASW sensors," Hartless said. "The idea is we will have a common RMMV where we will literally be able to swap out sensors – whether for mine warfare or anti-submarine warfare, whichever is needed."