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The Military Government The Almighty Buck United States

US Navy's $700 Million Mine-drone Won't Hunt (cnn.com) 92

New submitter ripvlan writes: CNN reports that a $700 million mine hunting system created by Lockheed Martin doesn't perform as expected. From the article: "The Remote Minehunting System, or RMS, was developed for the Navy's new littoral combat ship. But 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. ... In theory, the drone is deployed from the LCS towing sonar detection into suspected underwater minefields. The drone should then identify mines and communicate information about their whereabouts to the ship in real time so the explosives can be avoided or destroyed. But the program has come under fire from lawmakers after a series of testing failures, including continued performance issues and "RMS mission package integration challenges," according to the Defense Department's Office of Operational Test & Evaluation's 2014 annual report."
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US Navy's $700 Million Mine-drone Won't Hunt

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  • RMS (Score:5, Funny)

    by Fire_Wraith ( 1460385 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @02:52PM (#51101471)
    Of course it won't hunt - they named it RMS, so it's refusing to operate until all of its software is completely free and open. Guess they'd better start working on GNU/Mine Hunter.
    • If they'd done the development at Berkeley, it wouldn't have had such problems. But then anyone could come along, take the design, and add to it without backporting to the US Navy.

    • Another shortcoming: The drone was constantly blaring the Free Software Song through its speaker system.
    • I knew this article would have RMS supporters come out of the woodwork. Always remember, you get what you pay for. Except for when you got something for free. Or when you pay for something but don't get it.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      I always knew it: WW3's outcome will be determined by Emacs......or vi.

  • maybe it's good at one but bad at the other. (glass half full but paying full price)
  • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @02:56PM (#51101505) Journal

    It can't find mines for the LCS? That's littorally useless.

    eh heh heh heh.

    Anyway I wish I could charge $700e6 for a project that doesn't work.

    • by jcadam ( 964044 )
      Hell, I'd be willing to develop a mine-hunting drone that doesn't work for *half* that price. I'll even throw in a few extra features like "not even waterproof" for no additional charge.
      • I think they underestimated the task at hand by a long shot. Question is, do they have remaining R&D money?

        I suspect the testing is what has turned out to be the most difficult and expensive part of the project.

    • Military contracting 101:

      You don't charge 700e6 for a project that doesn't work, you charge $700e6 for a project that just need $300e6-$700e6 more to actually work.

    • There was another famous RMS Titan... That had an affinity for icebergs... Mines? Icebergs?... Non-sequedor?
  • Question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @02:56PM (#51101507) Homepage Journal
    Is that 700 mil taxpayer money? If so, here is a solution: Don't pay the contractor a penny until they produce a working production sample. Then buy them for the original contacted price, not any additional "cost overruns"
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      here is a solution: Don't pay the contractor a penny until they produce a working production sample.

      But they have an army of lawyers who know how to blame it on post-contract customer changes, which probably has some truth to it, at least enough to tie it up in court long enough for short-term-focused politicians to forget about it and dump it on the next generation. Rinse, repeat...

      • Re:Question (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11, 2015 @03:39PM (#51101797)

        Hell, I've ben a victim of Navy acquisitions (we foolishly bet that they could build a radar). Their entire program is post-contract customer changes, because their initial requirements docs and RFP were composed of science fiction, typographic errors, and a rejection of physics. They got particularly bent out of shape when (Northrop in this case) built a 90% solution of what they spec'ed, though it was obvious to everyone that what they spec'ed could not possibly fit in the airplane. I thought the contractors were slimy shitbags until I realized that it's really a "fuck you fee" for dealing with the financial fallout from the military's shenanigans. There's a reason that the "next generation bomber" is being built from "existing capability" but bid out of the "Rapid Capabilities Office" which has an exemption from acquisitions law so that it can buy and field high risk new technology.

        • The reason the initial requirements docs and RFP are inadequate is because the Government (not just the Navy; everybody's guilty of this) is trying to buy capabilities they don't already have and don't know how to completely describe. You should apply Hanlon's razor [wikipedia.org] to your opinion of "shenanigans".

          As the system develops, the contractors will need to choose design details which weren't spelled out in the spec. The contractor preference is more-or-less technically reasonable (depending on the experience leve

    • Is that 700 mil taxpayer money? If so, here is a solution: Don't pay the contractor a penny until they produce a working production sample. Then buy them for the original contacted price, not any additional "cost overruns"

      Is that a quick and effective solution you have for a problem within our government?

      If so, here is a solution:

      Hold your breath. If you find you pass out before the solution comes along, then you'll realize "quick and effective" have no place in government.

  • Didn't Lockheed-Martin also make the F-35, another dud? They must be Too Big To Fail or something.

    • As much as I don't like how the F-35 program has been managed... Trying to build an aircraft that is all things to all of the services was a really bad idea, but having common parts and support equipment will be a big advantage eventually which will someday help make up for the botched development effort.

      The F35 isn't really that bad, considering. Yes it's behind schedule and over budget by quite a margin, but I think it has real possibilities and is well on it's way to realize much of it's expected capabi

      • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

        Trying to build an aircraft that is all things to all of the services was a really bad idea, but having common parts and support equipment will be a big advantage eventually...It's not a horrible platform for any of it's intended roles, in fact it really is acceptable in all of them.

        But being "good enough" at any specific task could backfire if our military enemies play their cards right. Russia and China could, for example, agree to optimize their planes for specific types of roles and buy from each othe

        • True.. However, the F35 isn't the only game in town for each of the roles it is designed for.

          What the pentagon has done is to acquire purpose built, best in class, air superiority fighter in the F-22. These aircraft are what will take on the Chinese and Russian fighters and establish air superiority long before the F-35 starts doing it's business. So where the F-35 might not have a good ratio with the top of the line offerings from China or Russia, that's not a big issue, it can hold it's own with what's

          • by tsotha ( 720379 )
            That would all be the case if we'd bought enough F-22s. But we didn't. A hundred and eighty some odd aircraft will simply be overwhelmed by a determined adversary.
            • Seriously? The F22 has outclassed everything in the skies by a long shot. Even the F-18 is no match head to head as it gets shot down long before it ever knows the F22 is even there. Unless we intend to take on Russia or China over their home turf, what we purchased is sufficient. I'm sure we can contain either of them if they try to advance through some kind of proxy. Now if a real live shoot'n war breaks out with one or both, the number of F22's we have will be the least of our concerns, and yea, it
              • Sorry, Not the F18... The F16 is the air to air platform to beat... Not that the F18 is bad in its own right...
              • by tsotha ( 720379 )
                While you're right the F-22 outclasses the competition, it only carries so much ordinance and fuel. The wargamed a Chinese attack on Taiwan and found the numbers of deployed F-22s couldn't protect ground targets even if every single missile found its mark. Once you've exhausted your ordinance you're just an onlooker.
                • F22 is an "Air superiority" fighter, which means it's purpose is to clear the skies of hostile aircraft. This it can do in spades, before the hostiles even know they are targeted, they are dead. Doing this doesn't require having lots of missiles, it requires being effective in an engagement. and returning to do it again, over and over until the adversary cannot continue to sustain the losses. It takes time.

                  However, the F22 isn't the only asset we'd bring to a conflict over Taiwan. F18's, F16's, and even F

      • If the F35 parts get re-used that would be true, but that's not how they operate. ALL future jets will have their parts custom designed, because re-using parts makes them commodities, and that's just another word for reduced profit margins.
      • > The F35 isn't really that bad, considering.

        Considering what?
        Considering it's not a jack of all trades (it's not even a master of one; it's a master of none); it cannot match the capabilities of any one single aircraft it was designed to replace. it does not meet the performance envelope, efficiency, or capacity of any of the older units that have been phased out or are slated to be phased out in favor of the F-35.

        They really ought to fix the remaining issues with the F-22, put that into production an

        • The F35 was INTENDED to be this way. It's good enough to do the jobs it's been handed. Does it improve on any purpose build platform? No, but it wasn't intended to. The F35 was INTENDED to be cheaper and advance some important needs as seen by the pentagon. It compares favorably to any of the platforms it's intended to replace, but it was not expected to always exceed the capabilities of any single platform. It was supposed to be the utility platform of choice, durable, flexible and less expensive to op

  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @02:58PM (#51101527)
    I, for one, am disappointed the Navy is using the acronym LCS for Littoral Combat Ship, instead of the more imaginative C LITTORAL. At Cape Lisburne Airforce Station, the close-circuit TV network was named Cape LIsburne Internal Television. Yeah, now idea what was on those guy's minds...
  • During the Reagan Administration, the Navy used oil tankers to protect their ships from Iranian mines in the Persian Gulf. Which was ironic considering that the Navy was supposed to be protecting the oil tankers. Minesweepers were hard to find back then.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Earnest_Will [wikipedia.org]

  • Why not simply adapt and upgrade something much more simple (and effective) such as the Hedgehog [wikipedia.org]? Granted it was designed to take out uboats, but an updated form of the weapon utilizing a proximity fuse should be effective at clearing a pathway in front of the vessel even in shallow water. Essentially you are using a naval version of a MCLC [wikipedia.org].
    • Lets throw tons of explosives and carpet bomb an area that may or may not have mines. The MCLC works because it it creates narrow paths through minefields that can be followed by vehicles. These paths need to be about 20 feet wide. For a ship that path would need to be much wider. MCLC also works by over pressure triggering pressure sensitive mines. It would have no effect on acoustic or magnetic triggered mines.

  • Actually, it performs EXACTLY as I would have expected. :)

  • Throw more money at it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11, 2015 @03:29PM (#51101725)

    I worked on this project for a few years. It is the epitome of government waste
      the hardware is 20+ years old and due to bureaucracy, upgrades are rare and expensive to initiate. There are a few alternatives that work! This project is not getting cancelled because I suspect someone is getting paid big money to keep this alive. All the LM team I worked for was/is incompetent.

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      But what entity/company/person/planet builds large, complicated, cutting-edge contraptions without delay and drama? It's not just gov't and military contractors that have problems.

      It does sometimes happen, but it's usually a lucky accident that cannot be repeated on command. The winners of this lottery brag and say they are geniuses, and the losers quietly slither off to a new project. We look at the winners and naively say, "see, it can be done!", not understanding the Vegas-ness of it all.

      The Russians hav

  • Imrpove over time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Etherwalk ( 681268 )

    Experimental combat systems don't always work the first time. The big issue is more the massive fraud--you sell it all to Congress with one budget knowing it is going to cost at least three times as much if magical unicorn engineers don't show up from the future and tell you how to make it all work. With another few years of development it'll get better and better. This is still fairly important in terms of conventional engagements because mines are relatively cheap and easy to build.

  • 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.

    Can't control it or communicate with it unless you can see it and battery life is 1/3 of requirement. For $700 million, that's a pretty dramatic implementation miss for some pretty straightforward requirements.

  • damn contractors (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11, 2015 @03:43PM (#51101831)

    Disclaimer: I am an R&D EE for the US NAVY, which is why I'm posting as an AC.

    If I could only tell you all about how many projects fucking contractors screw up you would be amazed. Raytheon couldn't find their ass with both hands taped to it and Lockheed isn't any better. the last project I worked on with a contractor (Raytheon) had more than 15 engineers and 30 support personnel on it, and they STILL couldn't get it done right. 20 Million+ later the NAVY finally yanked it and we did it with 4 engineers and 1 Tech for less than 1 million. It's now being used by both the NAVY and the Coasties.. Contractors are leeches. contractors are clues (for the more part). Contractors just suck.

    • I've seen quite a few examples of this outside of the military as well. The bigger the contractor and the bigger the project the closer it gets to guaranteed failure. Generally it starts with a complete vaporware sales job without an ounce of true understanding of if they can actually build whatever it is within the timeframe required. Then they may throw some "star" players in at the beginning to get things going while they build a much larger team of barely able to feed themselves noobs earning nearl
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11, 2015 @04:05PM (#51101959)

    It transferred nearly a billion dollars of taxpayer public money into private hands.

    But socialism is terrible if it's for medical care for everyone. Greasing up a slick billionaire's rectum, though, perfectly fine!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    700 million dollars for a remote controlled airplane that doesn't work. We are all morons for continuing to pay taxes to these fucking people.

  • Lockbleed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by midifarm ( 666278 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @04:08PM (#51101977)
    Imagine that, another multibillion dollar Lockheed project that doesn't perform as ordered. And people complain about the $500/mo that a single mom gets in welfare.
  • Now maybe there are a few things I don't understand about minesweeping. But it would seem to me that depending on a system which is towed behind a ship to detect things you don't want to run over with the ship isn't going to work very well. It's sort of like driving by looking in your rear view mirror [oblig. bad car analogy].

    • Sonar emits sound in a spherical pattern, the area of that sphere blocked by the ship is minuscule (the further away from the ship the smaller it is) and only to a relatively shallow depth; the sonar buoy can submerge below that and have a completely clear forward field of view. Also, if the receiving hydrophones are on the ship rather than the buoy, the engines and sonar emitter are both in the same direction (behind), so they could be optimized for forward facing sensitivity without having to worry about

  • The money for this was spent in a state and in a Congressional district. Jobs were created/preserved, each with more than one voter attached or related to it, on average.

    Quite apart from the financial appreciation expressed by the employers of those voters directly and indirectly to re-election campaigns, there's also the ability of those politicians to brag about keeping/adding jobs, which impresses even those not living under the same roof as the holders of those jobs.

    An unsuccessful weapons system wou

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