$700 Million Mine-Hunting Drone Can't Find Explosives

$700 Million Mine-Hunting Drone Can't Find Explosives

January 04, 2016

$700 Million Mine-Hunting Drone Can't Find Explosives

The U.S. Navy invested nearly $700 million and 16 years in a mine-hunting drone that can't detect mines. That bit of bad military news came out of the Pentagon's weapon-testing office.

The expensive and controversial unmanned mine-hunting drone, which now looks like a big failure, is built by defense contractor Lockheed Martin, The Remote Minehunting System is supposed to be a key component of the Navy's littoral combat ships.

Now, however, the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation says the drone hunting technology was unable to consistently identify and destroy underwater explosives during tests dating back to September 2014.

"The Navy has determined that the RMS' total number of failures and periodicity of failures fall short of the design requirement for the system," said Capt. Thurraya Kent, a spokeswoman for the Navy.

Navy's Controversial Mine-Hunting Drone

The Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation's 2014 annual report shared that the RMS program has come under fire from lawmakers after a series of testing failures, including continued performance issues and "RMS mission package integration challenges."

The drone has continued to experience testing issues in 2015, according to an August 3 memo from Michael Gilmore, director of Operational Test and Evaluation, to Kendall.

"Recent developmental testing provides no statistical evidence that the system is demonstrating improved reliability, and instead indicates that reliability plateaued nearly a decade ago," Gilmore wrote.

Specifically, testing revealed that the vehicle "cannot be reliably controlled by the ship or communicate when it is operating out of the line-of-sight of the ship, and the towed sonar cannot detect mines consistently," according to the DOT&E.

The memo, cited in a September Senate Armed Service Committee report, also said the drone could only reliably operate for up to 25 hours before it failed during testing, falling far short of its required 75 hours.

Despite criticism from several lawmakers, the impending review by Kendall and an additional, ongoing independent review chartered by Navy officials, Lockheed Martin said it stands behind the underwater drone system.

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