US Navy sea base ship tests LCS mine warfare package

US Navy’s Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB) ship USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (T-ESB 4) spent three days in the Chesapeake Bay testing an anti-mine system developed for the littoral combat ships.

USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams (T-ESB 4) became the first Military Sealift Command ship to launch the Textron-developed Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS). Photo: US Navy

T-ESB 4 used the littoral combat ship mine countermeasure (MCM) mission package portable control station to maneuver the MCM equipment and the launch and recovery equipment, as well as to test the command and control of unmanned vehicles.

The demonstration proved ESB class ships’ ability to serve as an MCM-capable platform to embark 12 twenty-foot equivalent units, vehicles, and the support equipment required to operate, launch, and recover one full MCM mission package, including the buried mine hunting and unmanned sweeping mission modules, with flexible ship modifications.

“Considering the contested environments which our ships sail in, counter-mine capabilities are very important because we have to be able to keep the enemy at bay,” said Capt. David Gray, the USNS Hershel Woody William officer in charge.

“Mines of today are very inexpensive to make,” Gray explained. “Our adversaries can produce mines for a few hundred dollars and inflict a tremendous loss of life while causing millions of dollars of damage. So we need the assets out there to detect and destroy these threats ahead of time, and keep the world’s shipping lanes open.”

Photo: US Navy

“This demonstration highlighted the inherent modularity of the Mine Countermeasure Mission Package,” said Capt. Godfrey Weekes, Littoral Combat Ships Mission Modules Program Manager, PEO USC. “The ability to deploy the MCM capability from this ship is a true force multiplier.”

Initial assessments showed positive results and will help inform the feasibility of integration on ESB, as well as other vessels of opportunity.

“This successful demonstration shows the versatility of the ESB platform to bring capability to the fleet through expanded expeditionary warfare mission sets,” said Capt. Scot Searles, Strategic and Theater Sealift Program Manager, PEO Ships.

USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams launches a Knightfish unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) while at anchor in the Chesapeake Bay, Sept. 14. Photo: US Navy