Unmanned Systems

Navy Knifefish undersea drone detects numerous mines in test

The General Dynamics Mission Systems’ Knifefish team successfully completed contractor trials for the U.S. Navy’s Knifefish program, a mine countermeasure unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV).

The Knifefish UUV operated in multiple mine test target fields at sea using buried, bottom and volume type mine test targets, according to Navy and GD statements

The Knifefish system successfully demonstrated its ability to detect, classify and identify potential mines, at a variety of depths, each of which would pose a unique threat to naval vessels operating in a mission area.

“The system demonstrated its ability to reliably find mines in different environments,” stated Capt. Jonathan Rucker, Knifefish Program Manager. “Knifefish provides the Navy a critical means to find and identify bottom, buried, and volume mines, providing a much-needed capability for the warfighter.” 

The Knifefish UUV is based on the General Dynamics Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle. In testing earlier this year, Knifefish Simulated mine-hunting missions, Knifefish located and classified mine test targets submerged at various depths and on the seafloor.

The undersea drone is also capable of locating and identifying mines buried in the seafloor, its developer General Dynamics Mission Systems said in a statement.

The Navy has also conducted Knifefish assessments in Narragansett Bay, R.I., in which the 21-foot Unmanned Underwater Vehicle used low-frequency broadband synthetic aperture sonar to find hidden undersea mine targets.

“We put eight targets down across a range. The vehicle went around to detect the targets,” Rucker explained earlier this year at the Surface Naval Association.

The purpose of the Knifefish drone is to allow a manned surface ship to remain at a safe distance away from potential danger, while the drone searches for and finds floating and buried mines in high-clutter environments. The drone also gathers environmental data to provide intelligence support.

Although initially planned for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship, the Knifefish can operate from any surface ship, according to Rucker. The drone is part of a multi-pronged plan to replace the Navy’s Remote Minehunting System, or RMS. The Navy effort includes transitioning from the RMS to a mine-searching surface ship and then the Knifefish UUV.

About the Author

Kris Osborn is a former editor of Defense Systems.

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