Northrop Grumman Corporation’s AQS-24 mine hunting sonar recently completed initial in-water testing of a next-generation Deploy and Retrieval (D&R) payload. Operated from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV), the AQS-24 D&R demonstrated the unmanned operations needed to perform a mine hunting mission off the MCM Mission Package aboard the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).
«Achieving this important milestone demonstrated reliable unmanned mine hunting operations, while using operationally representative hardware from the LCS MCM Mission Module», said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. «This allows the program to begin preparation for further at-sea testing of the system for extended duration missions in rigorous conditions».
The MCM USV tests are ahead of planned user-operated evaluation system testing of the AQS-24 on LCSs. The company has multiple versions of the AQS-24 to provide mine hunting capabilities for navies. The AQS-24B is a deployed system which uses side-scan sonar for real-time detection, localization and classification of bottom and moored mines in addition to a laser line scanner for precise optical identification.
Integration of the AQS-24 sonar with USVs allows for the real-time transmission of all AQS-24 data to a remote sonar operator, who can then commence Real-Time Mission Analysis (RTMA) of all recorded mission data. RTMA significantly reduces MCM detect to engage timelines, as well as the real-time reacquisition and identification of bottom mines following traditional mine hunting sorties.
Northrop Grumman Corporation will be participating in the Royal Navy’s Unmanned Warrior exercise where it will demonstrate its unmanned mine hunting capability.
The unmanned mine hunting element of Unmanned Warrior will feature Northrop Grumman’s AQS-24B towed mine hunting sensor operated from an Atlas Elektronik UK ARCIMS Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV). The AQS-24B, which is a towed mine hunting sensor used by the U.S. Navy, features the world’s only high speed synthetic aperture sonar for mine detection, localisation and classification, and an optical laser line scan sensor for mine identification. The ARCIMS USV is a surface craft 36 feet/11 meters long that will be operated via remote control while towing the AQS-24B through a simulated mine field.
«Securing access and situational awareness in the maritime environment has become increasingly important for many nations», said Andrew Tyler, chief executive, Northrop Grumman Europe. «We look forward to participating in Unmanned Warrior and demonstrating how innovative, state of the art U.K. and U.S. technologies can come together to advance unmanned military capabilities that can potentially benefit both navies as well as those of our allies».
Unmanned Warrior, which takes place at Ministry of Defence (MoD) exercise areas in Scotland and the Western Isles, is part of the biannual Joint Warrior exercise, and is the largest capability demonstration event of its kind. It will feature more than 40 unmanned vehicles, sensors and systems demonstrating, in a challenging environment, key military missions for the Royal Navy in a series of themed activities including mine-hunting, sea surveying, submarine simulation and fleet reconnaissance. The exercise will help inform the Royal Navy’s future capability planning and demonstrate how the systems being showcased deliver maritime situational awareness.
The demonstration of unmanned systems overlaid onto the Joint Warrior exercise scenario will create a challenging environment for the participants and allow the Royal Navy to see first-hand how the systems and sensors could integrate into current and future maritime operations.