U.S. Army engineers are continuing to support U.S. Navy mine countermeasure operations in response to a 2011 urgent need statement.
The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center's Prototype Integration Facility developed a Lithium Ion Containment System integrated into a Military Dismountable Van to protect and support the MK18 Mod 2 Underwater Unmanned Vehicle.
The Navy uses the MK18 for mine-detection missions with enhanced endurance and an improved area coverage rate from the previous system. These UUVs are pre-programmed and designed to scan waters for targets or threats while offering Sailors faster post-mission analysis.
The PIF's project lead wngineer, Brad Easterwood, said because the need for the MK18 was so urgent, the Navy needed a containment system for the vehicle immediately. Known for its rapid response, the PIF was able to contract, design, manufacture and deploy two systems in three months.
"To our knowledge, this is the first lithium ion battery containment and fire suppression system ever developed," Easterwood said. "The PIF provided the support equipment around the UUV and focused on how a Sailor would interface with it in a tactical environment. We were responsible for how they would charge, store and move the vehicle around for deployments onto U.S. Navy ships and forward operating bases."
The container starts out as a commercial, intermodal container approximately 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8.5 feet tall. The team then uses the PIF developed and Navy approved technical drawing package to modify the container to meet the needs of the MK18 system. Once all equipment is added, the MILVAN includes a lithium ion battery fire suppression system, fire retardant walls and ceilings, air conditioning, maintenance cabinets, overhead crane system, and other equipment required for the operations and maintenance of the MK18 UUV.
In a statement from the Department of the Navy, Rear Adm. T.J. Kearney stated that the PIF superbly met this urgent Navy requirement.
"The PIF is a truly unique organization that has provided rapid response engineering and outstanding product delivery to the Navy," Kearney said. "This Army and Navy business arrangement has allowed Navy to rapidly develop and field real capability into the hands of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Warfighter."
This is not the first critical enabling capability the PIF has delivered to the Navy. In 2013, Easterwood's team was recognized for developing an Emergency Egress Lighting System for the Marine Corps' Assault Amphibious Vehicle in support of a crucial naval operation.
"The PIF is currently supporting several critical programs initiatives including delivery and certification of the MK18 shipboard lithium-ion support container, supporting ongoing operations in U.S. Central Command, supporting testing and evaluation processes and prototype fabrication," Kearney said.
Because of the MK18 containment system's success, the PIF is collaborating on additional Navy projects, including the Navy Seal Delivery Vehicle, Quickstrike air drop mine fuse and other unmanned submersible work.
The engineering for this program was an effort among the PIF, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command- Pacific, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, and the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division.
The U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.