The Knifefish UUV, which is selected by the Naval Sea Systems Command of the US Navy, is based on the Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle. On July 20, 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense awarded General Dynamics roughly $13.5 million for ongoing engineering of the UUV.
The program is intended to be completed by September of 2021, after which full-rate production will begin in 2022. The Knifefish is a medium-class unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) designed to be deployed from a littoral combat ship to detect bottom, volume and buried mines underwater. Volume mines are suspended at shallow depths and are designed to break the keels of ships passing over them.
The U.S. Navy has expressed interest in purchasing a total of 30 Knifefish systems: twenty-four of which will support Littoral Combat Ship operations, and six of which will be used in other ships that may face a threat from naval mines. nifefish is a critical element of the LCS Mine Countermeasure Mission Package and will reduce risk to Navy personnel and equipment.
The Knifefish system, which consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles along with support systems and equipment, uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology developed by the Naval Research Laboratory and successfully transitioned to industry. It acts as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries.
The Knifefish is 16.2 feet long, 21 inches in diameter, and weighs 1,650 pounds. The unmanned undersea vehicle can operate to depths to 14,763 feet, and can operate for as long as 25 hours between battery recharges. It is powered by a lithium-ion battery, which allows it to operate for up to 16 hours on pre-programmed search missions.
The UUV has an integrated GPS, radio-frequency, Iridium, and strobe antenna, and communicates with operators via radio frequency links, Iridium satellite communications, and acoustic communications systems.