The Naval Surface Warfare Center's Panama City Division is developing innovative mission-control technologies for unmanned systems, targeted initially at the mine countermeasures (MCM) systems that will be operated on board the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The technologies eventually could be extended to antisubmarine and antisurface warfare for the LCS and other platforms.
The effort, center officials say, aims at shifting management of both manned and unmanned offboard systems from a traditional vehicle-centric approach to a mission-centric concept, thereby reducing the workload of the LCS mission crews.
A major innovation of the LCS design is the introduction of separate mission modules for mine, antisubmarine, and surface warfare. The mine warfare team will consist of 14 crewmen and one officer. The full LCS crew, at about 50 personnel, will be dramatically smaller than that of any other Navy surface combatant.
The LCS program, planned for as many as 55 ships configured for agile, close-to-shore operations, has encountered design and cost problems, but remains a major element of the Navy's plan for the surface combatant force.