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Navy considering big changes for LCS

Jan. 24, 2011 - 05:36AM   |   Last Updated: Jan. 24, 2011 - 05:36AM  |  
Officials are considering changes to the mission modules for the littoral combat ships.
Officials are considering changes to the mission modules for the littoral combat ships. (MC1 Leah Stiles / Navy)
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The Navy is considering big changes to the mission modules for its littoral combat ships, including fielding the Griffin missile and axing a helicopter mounted anti-mine cannon, the Navy's director of surface warfare announced Jan. 11.

The rapid airborne mine clearance system, a Northrop Grumman system being tested as part of the mine counter-measure module of LCS, "has slid to the right, and it is not not testing well, but it is an expensive program," Rear Adm. Frank Pandolfe, director of surface warfare division, said in a speech at the national symposium of the Surface Navy Association.

The system features a 30mm gun designed to detonate floating and shallow-water mines. It fires an armor-piercing tracer round, outfitted with fins, that vaporizes the water in front of it and reduces drag, according to a Northrop Grumman factsheet on the weapon.

But the delay in testing has put the system in the crosshairs. Pandolfe said the Navy is now considering replacing it with another mine shooter, the Airborne Mine Neutralization System.

"What we're looking at is adapting the airborne mine neutralization system, to not only neutralize bottom mines, but to work up in the water column and also do shallow and surface mines," Pandolfe told the SNA audience. "If that works, and the prelim testing is very promising, then we may not need RAMICS. That would allow us to streamline the program, save money and go to a single kill vehicle."

AMNS is a Raytheon-built mine killer that features a helicopter-deployed sled. The helicopter crew acquires the mine with a vehicle launched from the sled, and fires a "neutralizer" to destroy it, according to a Raytheon factsheet.

Another anti-mine system is facing the ax. Pandolfe said that the reliability of the remote minehunting vehicle — a diesel-powered, semi-submersible sled that tows the AQS-20 sonar — is at "80 percent of where we need it to be."

He added, "It's on the right glide slope. It's getting lots of attention. We're going to get where we need to be."

On the surface warfare module, the Griffin missile might replace the now-canceled Non-Line of Sight missile, Pandolfe said. The Navy chose Griffin, a short-range missile designed for unmanned aerial vehicles, after a six-month review of all available and upcoming missiles.

"The one that we think is most promising is called Griffin. It's a Raytheon missile," Pandolfe said. "We have proposed to our leadership that we replace NLOS — or fill the hole created by the cancellation of NLOS — with Griffin, at first in a shorter-range increment and then in a second increment, which is longer range and more capable. It would allow us to get the weapon in the fleet on the time line that NLOS would have arrived, keeping the package intact."

Griffin will enable LCS to engage small boats at close range, Pandolfe said.

The shorter range missile will likely be fielded starting in 2015, with an over-the-horizon one arriving in 2017, according to one of the presentation slides Pandolfe used. Ë

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