US Navy clears Knifefish UUV for low-rate production

The General Dynamics-developed Knifefish  mine countermeasure unmanned vessel that will be deployed from littoral combat ships has been cleared for low-rate production.

Shortly after Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish program, the navy awarded General Dynamics Missions Systems a $44.6 million contract for low-rate initial production of initial systems for tests and operations.

The initial contract was awarded on August 26 while full-rate production decision is expected in fiscal year 2022 after additional testing.

The Knifefish system is designed for deployment from the littoral combat ship (LCS), vessels of opportunity or from shore to detect and classify buried, bottom and volume mines in high-clutter environments.

The system consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles along with support systems and equipment and uses low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology developed by the Naval Research Laboratory. It acts as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the mine field boundaries.

Planned block upgrades will improve its sensors and automated target recognition software to keep pace with mine threats.

Formal developmental testing and an operational assessment were conducted from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coasts of Massachusetts and Florida. The Knifefish tests involved end-to-end operational minehunting missions against a deployed, simulated target field.

The Navy plans to procure 30 Knifefish systems in all, 24 in support of LCS Mine Countermeasure Mission Packages and an additional six systems for deployment from vessels of opportunity.

Photo: US Navy photo of the Knifefish UUV during testing.