General Dynamics delivers first Knifefish surface mine countermeasure unmanned underwater vehicle

According to a press release published by General Dynamics Mission Systems on March 18, 2021, the firm recently delivered the first Knifefish surface mine countermeasure unmanned underwater vehicle (SMCM UUV) system under a contract awarded by the Navy on Aug. 26, 2019.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 First Knifefish system delivered to U.S. Navy (Picture source: General Dynamics Mission Systems)

The contract, awarded immediately after a successful Milestone C decision and approval to enter low-rate initial production (LRIP), calls for the procurement of five Knifefish systems (10 total UUVs) and support equipment.

Knifefish SMCM is a medium-class mine countermeasure UUV intended for deployment from the Navy's littoral combat ship and other Navy vessels of opportunity. Knifefish SMCM will reduce risk to personnel by operating within minefields 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. The Knifefish SMCM UUV is based on the General Dynamics Bluefin Robotics Bluefin®-21 deep-water autonomous undersea vehicle.

Unlike some other underwater autonomous vehicles, the Knifefish does not tow a sonar but has a sonar built into its body, significantly streamlining the design and increasing range and endurance.

The Knifefish system uses low-frequency sonar in tandem with target recognition software to identify underwater targets. The Knifefish system is designed to essentially act as a sensor extension of its mother ship, allowing the ship to stay behind the Knifefish, away from minefields and out of harm’s way.

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