The Navy is also working on improvements to the RMMV capture spine — the equipment that helps launch and recover the RMMV. “It was designed for DDGs,” he says. “It just didn’t have all the degrees of freedom you need to have [for LCS].”
“The Navy was looking for capability,” says Stephen Froelich, Palm Beach site manager and director and general manager of mission and unmanned systems for Lockheed Martin, which developed the RMMV. “The decision was made [about five years ago] to move it off the DDGs.”
While the essential operations are the same, Froelich says, he points out that the DDGs are larger and had more sailors to maneuver and maintain the RMMV. The unmanned underwater vehicle also was recovered via a side door on the destroyer, while LCS operations call for it to be brought aboard the stern, where interaction between the ship and sea is different.
After some early public miscues during launches and recoveries off LCS-2, the USS Independence, operations are going more smoothly now, Froelich says. “The sailors are now trained and they are much more comfortable with the system,” he says.
The LCS-1/USS Freedom class of ships is configured differently, he says, and will require some tweaks in the operations.
Ailes now points to the RMMV as an example of an LCS module turnaround success story. “It’s come a long, long way,” he says.
Froelich says, “They put together a reliability growth program about three years ago. We modeled the entire system, and rerouted the cable and rerouted the hydraulics to make it more accessible for maintenance purposes so technicians could reach in there a lot easier to make it a lot more maintenance-friendly. It’s a much cleaner system, much more open. We’ve meet every milestone that’s been put in front of us.”
Lockheed has also made launch-and-recovery improvements, Froelich says. “The approach is very much better. We’ve upgraded the software to ensure it comes in on a much smoother glide. It’s much more controllable. And the sailors are getting better with training.” That said, “No shipboard evolution doesn’t have an element of danger,” he adds. “It’s about minimizing your risk.”
Tracy Nye, Navy warfare analyst, says in recent tests the Navy operated RMMVs and MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters outfitted with different MCM sensors. “Most of the launches were missions,” she says. “We deployed the sonar and looked for mines. We changed out the head on the sonar.”