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Delegates at Surface Navy Association (SNA) 2020 this week will have the opportunity to view a 1:8 scale model of General Dynamics Mission Systems’ (GDMS) KNIFEFISH surface mine countermeasure (SMCM) UUV.

GD is now under contract for the low-rate initial production (LRIP) of five KNIFEFISH systems, with each system comprised of two UUVs. Paul Dalton, Director, Combat and Autonomous Systems at GDMS, noted, “We are on track to deliver the first of these systems to the US Navy in calendar year 2021.”

The KNIFEFISH system is part of the MCM Mission Package intended for deployment from US Navy Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). “We are working with the government to consider deployment from other Navy platforms and craft of opportunity, but we must defer discussion of these concepts to the Navy,” Dalton added.

GDMS partners in the KNIFEFISH programme include Ultra Electronics, Metron, Oceaneering and Penn State University’s Applied Research Laboratory.

Dalton also provided his perspective on the pace of innovation and change in the UUV sector, pointing out that, as has been the case for the past several years, technology in the UUV market space continues to advance rapidly. “Specifically, for the mine counter-measures mission, we continue to see a need to shrink the ‘detect to engage’ timeline. The overall purpose of leveraging UxV [unmanned vehicle] technologies to remove the man from the minefield continues to generate more and more interest, both for domestic and international navies. The advancement of machine learning techniques to shrink the mission analysis timeline for the vast amounts of data collected also continues to be of interest.”

Commenting on other technology developments in this sector, he emphasized that, in general, continued improvement in battery technologies continues to push the level of endurance achievable to support these missions. “Additionally, as the sensor payloads become more and more sophisticated, we are able to accomplish more with less power than we were able to even a few short years ago. Finally, we are seeing a fast proliferation of the use of artificial intelligence/machine learning to create platforms with autonomy and mission planning improvements that are able to use environmental data, as well as the use of in situ data to perform intelligent re-planning, that is changing the way we can engage with these platforms to perform collaborative missions.”

Elsewhere in the UUV market, GD also recently launched both its updated BLUEFIN-9 and BLUEFIN-12 products, said to offer significant advances in survey and imaging capabilities, as well as powerful onboard data processing and highly accurate navigation. “The increased modularity, embedded intelligence, data processing and extended operational range of these vehicles offer significant opportunities to continue to advance the capabilities of UUVs being delivered to the US Navy,” Dalton added.

Marty Kauchak in Virginia for MON

Test team personnel completing an operational test on a KINFEFISH UUV. (Photo: USN)

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