Northrop Grumman has announced that it has completed initial in-water testing of its AQS-24 mine hunting sonar using a next-generation Deploy and Retrieval (D&R) payload. The sonar was operated from a Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV), demonstrating the unmanned operations required for mine hunting missions using the MCM Mission Package on board littoral combat ships (LCS).
The AQS-24B sonar 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. Integrating the sonar with USVs allows real-time transmission of data to a remote sonar operator, who can then perform real-time mission analysis (RTMA) of all the recorded mission data. RTMA significantly reduces the detection-to-engagement time during MCM missions, and improves real-time reacquisition and identification of bottom mines following traditional mine hunting sorties.
These initial MCM USV tests will be followed by 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.
Alan Lytle, vice president of undersea systems at Northrop Grumman, commented: “Achieving this important milestone demonstrated reliable unmanned mine hunting operations, while using operationally representative hardware from the LCS MCM Mission Module. This allows the program to begin preparation for further at-sea testing of the system for extended duration missions in rigorous conditions.”