General Dynamics Mission Systems has announced that it has successfully completed a comprehensive evaluation of Knifefish, an autonomous surface mine countermeasure (SMCM) unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV). In coordination with the U.S. Navy, the test events took place off the coast of Boston using submerged Navy mine test targets. The evaluation represents a significant milestone in the Knifefish program and demonstrates the UUV’s capability to detect and classify potential mines, at a variety of depths, each posing a unique threat to naval vessels operating in a mission area.
“The information and situational awareness Knifefish will deliver to sailors is a quantum leap in clarity and accuracy over other mine-hunting systems currently used by the Navy,” said Carlo Zaffanella, vice president and general manager of Maritime and Strategic Systems for General Dynamics Mission Systems.
Simulating mine-hunting missions, the UUV located and classified mine test targets submerged at various depths and on the seafloor. Knifefish is also capable of locating and identifying mines buried in the seafloor.
“The Navy continues to work with its industry partner, General Dynamics Mission Systems, to develop, test, and deliver the needed Knifefish capability to the fleet,” Capt. Jon Rucker, Program Manager for the Navy’s Unmanned Maritime Systems Program Office (PMS406) said. “The system performed well against a variety of surrogate targets and we are confident we will refine its performance to support the planned schedule in 2017.”
Knifefish will undergo additional at-sea testing to further refine system performance in advance of formal System Acceptance Testing with the Navy.
A U.S. Navy program, Knifefish is a heavyweight-class mine countermeasure UUV intended for deployment from Navy surface vessels. Knifefish will reduce risk to personnel by operating in the minefield as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries.
General Dynamics Mission Systems is the prime contractor for the Knifefish program. The company designed the tactical UUV using an open architecture concept that can be quickly and efficiently modified to accommodate a wide range of missions that may face future naval operations. The Knifefish UUV is based on the General Dynamics Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water AUV.
The project and the creation of Knifefish are the responsibility of General Dynamics, which started work on an autonomous submarine in 2012. One of the goals of the project was to abandon the use of minesweepers and sea lions. Currently, the US Navy uses about 75 animals for this purpose.
With its shape Knifefish resembles a torpedo - measures 5.8 meters long, slightly over 0.5 meters in diameter and weighs 770 kg. The electric propeller motor is powered by lithium-ion batteries. Fully charged batteries allow for a 25 hour mission.
Up to now, the systems were based on pulling a specially equipped sonar equipped with sensitive sonars. This meant the need to send in a potentially dangerous area of an expensive ship, and it involved the risk of health and life of the seafarers serving it. Alternatively, dolphins were used as a substitute for animal rights defenders and negative public reception.
Knifefish is the solution to these problems. In one device, all necessary systems were included, with a very sensitive low frequency broadband sonar at the head. The key here is a very advanced software that, based on the reflected radar echo, can accurately determine not only the position and size of the object, but also recognize the specific type of hidden weapon. Each found object is saved in the database and a detailed map of the given pool is created. Once the surface is autonomous, the autonomous entity starts the data transmission and transmits the data to its parent ship. General Dynamics has also developed a modified version of Knifefish capable of transmitting data in real time, even when immersed.
Importantly, the device was modular in design, allowing the navy to freely modify its parameters, depending on the mission's needs. The "plug and play" architecture allows Knifefish to be connected to virtually any military reconnaissance system, as well as combat systems.
Americans do not brag about the performance of their underwater hunter, but the Reliant underwater vehicle, which is the prototype of the entire construction, was able to travel 507 km and had an additional 10 percent. The supply of energy. In this way the distance record for vehicles of this type has been broken. The same prototype also participated in the search for missing Boeing 777 Malaysia Airlines.