“It can perform twice as fast,” Froelich says. “It can perform at high speeds. We do preset missions. We call them ‘mowing the grass.’ It goes back and forth. It has different modes such as bottom contour following or volume searches. You have different kinds of searches, depending on the type of water, the type of intelligence you have and the various conops [concepts of operation].”
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the proposed LCS conops for MCM keeps changing, and it is difficult to truly compare the new tactics and equipment with the legacy ones because of new metrics being employed by the Navy to measure mine warfare success.
But LCS program officials say some benefits of using unmanned systems are obvious when the proposed MCM packages are compared to the wooden Avenger-class ships packed with more than 80 sailors plodding through a minefield at a speed of 3-5 kt.
“It’s software, multiple sensors and newer technology,” Adair says. “When we say we can do it twice as fast as legacy, we’re comparing how long does it take to clear this volume of water, top to bottom, to some clearance level.”
He says, “It’s so hard — it’s almost impossible — to assure the admiral who’s coming down in the fleet in a ship [that] there are no mines down there. If you need to know there are no more than two mines in there, I need this amount of time. But if you’re willing to accept that there could be three mines in there, I’ll take a lot less time to cover this area. There are two measures of effectiveness in mine warfare: time and risk. If you give me enough time, I’ll reduce the risk.”
The LCS MCM package combining sensors with manned and unmanned systems, program officials say, make that much easier and safer than what the Navy has now.