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SAN DIEGO -
New technology is being developed to help the U.S. Navy and commercial shipping fleets counter the threat of underwater mines.
"Using acoustic and magnetic impulses, [the] UISS (Unmanned Influence Sweep System) tricks the underwater threat into exploding," said Capt. Duane Ashton, who manages the Navy's Maritime System Program.
Other than missiles, underwater mines remain a big threat to ships at sea.
"This would be the first unmanned sweep system that would be able to speed into a minefield and potentially neutralize them before they come in contact with a ship full of sailors," Ashton said.
Request for proposals are now under way as the system was demonstrated before some 30 different companies last week. The system is being developed to be part of the module system for the littoral combat ship.
Also being designed is a torpedo-looking device called the Knifefish to search for mines with the goal of then sending the high speed UISS out to destroy them.
With one-fifth of the world's oil passing through the Strait of Hormuz every day, Ashton said, "All it would take is a mine or even the threat of a mine to bring the world's economies to a halt."
Despite budgetary concerns, the unmanned systems are considered a high priority, with both ready for the Naval fleet by 2017.