The United States Navy has completed trials of a remotely operated minesweeper (UISS) that can be operated from both Coast Guard ships and from shore.
Tests took place off the coast of California aboard the USS Manchester, an Independence-class coastal zone ship. The boat was controlled both from the pier and from the side of the ship, launched into the water and taken back on board. He effectively cleared a vast area with minimal damage and demonstrated high maintainability.
The boat is designed to detect acoustic and magnetic mines in the sea and destroy them. Trawling mines planted in the depths of the sea is a very dangerous business. During demining, minesweepers are damaged by a mine explosion, and sometimes drown. To avoid human casualties and reduce material costs, the US Navy in 2014 entered into a contract with Textron Systems to create a remotely controlled mine-sweeper. At the beginning of 2020, the program was brought to the level when the companies were allowed to manufacture a minesweeper in a small series for large-scale tests.
The UISS was developed for coastal zone ships, essentially patrol boats, in order to increase their ability to clear the coastal area of enemy mines. The system consists of a standard boat, approximately 12 meters long, built from an aluminum alloy to reduce electromagnetic radiation. The boat tows the AQS-24 mine search sonar developed by Northrop Grumman. The locator detects, identifies, classifies and locates magnetic, acoustic and combined magnetic-acoustic mines. The complex also includes a detonator consisting of an MK-104 acoustic generator and an electromagnetic emitter.
While the boat is not a drone in the full sense of an elephant, it is nevertheless equipped with a set of sensors to prevent collision with an obstacle in case the operator is distracted or gape.
“For the first time, the tests demonstrated the capabilities and effectiveness of mine sweeping using an unmanned system from an LCS coastal zone ship in near-real conditions. These tests were a milestone for the entire program, and we are now one step away from delivering the product to the Navy”, - said Program Manager Captain Godfrey "Gus" Weeks.
The unmanned minesweeper is planned to replace the outdated Avenger-class ships and MH-53Es Sea Dragon helicopters.