15:22 GMT08 March 2021
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    Underwater minehunting drones, designed by Lockheed Martin for the safe, remote detection of explosive devices beneath the waves, failed 24 times during a preliminary trial testing period which began in September 2014 and ended in August.

    Most recently, the drones failed 14 times within 300 hours in a five-month round of preliminary trials at sea that ended on August 30, according to Navy test data provided to the Defense Department’s Office of Operational Test & Evaluation.

    The failed drones were towed to port seven times, and the intense combat testing required for increased purchases has been delayed.
    The US Navy had planned to spend $864 million on 54 drones from Lockheed, the biggest US contractor.

    “Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, has scheduled a January 19 review of the drone’s reliability woes, the latest setback for the troubled Littoral Combat Ship program. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of combat testing, prepared a 41-page classified assessment dated November 12 for the review,” according to a Bloomberg report.

    An independent team named by the Navy “is reviewing the drone program because the service realizes “reliability performance has not been acceptable”, the agency quotes Captain Thurraya Kent, a spokeswoman for the service, as having said in an e-mail.

    The drone failures apparently add to previous questions about “how much value the US will get from what’s now supposed to be a $23 billion program to build 32 Littoral Combat Ships in two versions made by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed and Austal Ltd. based in Henderson, Australia. Both versions depend on the drones to detect mines from a safe distance.”

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    Tags:
    test, hunter, mine, failure, drone, US
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