Story by Susan H. Lawson on 12/06/2018PANAMA CITY, Florida The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) supports Mission Packages (MP) that communicate with multiple unmanned vehicles. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) is developing Multiple Vehicle Communications System (MVCS) to meet that capability.
MVCS is a mine countermeasure (MCM) MP capability aboard the LCS that provides combatant commanders a modular, mission capability of assured access against littoral threats.
"MVCS can be described as an internet service provider between the LCS and unmanned vessels," said Tyler Moak, chief engineer for MVCS at NSWC PCD.
MVCS delivers wireless connectivity by which unmanned vessels provide status to and receive commands from LCS operators. By providing a common communications system for unmanned vehicles, MVCS reduces the required communications gear onboard LCSs.
For the past eight years, the division has worked to create an innovative communications system.
"MVCS is a full spectrum program that encompasses the entire acquisition lifecycle," said Scott Dorsch, NSWC PCD MVCS project engineer. "We are responsible for all phases of the program from design and development to production and lifecycle support."
Currently, the program provides line of sight communication and satellite communication for mine sweeping and hunting MCM operations.
NSWC PCD has been assigned several roles such as the Technical Direction Agent, Design Agent (DA), Software Support Activity, and the In-Service Engineering Agent. The DA role can sometimes be a contractor; however, as a government team performing the DA role, it enables personnel opportunities to maintain core competencies.
Efforts of the teams include: system development, test, delivery, production, and sustainment, ship set production, installation and checkout for LCS platform delivery, and subject matter expert support for off-board systems.
Team members have been working over the past two years to design and build the next version of the LCS communications system to support new off-board systems that will be supporting the MCM MP.
"We have currently built 23 ship sets that are installed aboard the LCS ships," said Dorsch. "The MVCS equipment is built here at Panama City and then provided to the contractor in the shipyard as government furnished equipment to be installed during construction of the ship."
MVCS provides LCS MP the capability to simultaneously communicate with multiple unmanned vehicles operating on the ocean's surface. It also assists surfaced Unmanned Undersea Vehicles by providing common data link and network communication services.
The program will release its next version in early Fiscal Year 2019 (FY-19) that will support multiple off board systems such as the Unmanned Influence Sweep System and Knifefish programs. "We have been working hard to support those programs this past year during their integration testing events to ensure communications and will continue to support them during major test events in FY-19," said Moak.
An engineering change proposal is scheduled for release in FY-19 providing baseline technology that communicates with new mine sweeping and hunting systems. Through the efforts of the MVCS team, MCM operations will advance to beyond line-of-sight capability. The upcoming versions will add beyond-line-of-sight capability to the systems.