U.S defense giant Northrop Grumman has announced that it successfully operated the new AQS-24 minehunting sonar system at depths greater than 400 feet during system testing off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Embarked on the M/V Richard Becker, the Northrop Grumman test team demonstrated reliable AQS-24 system operations with excellent sonar performance at all tested depths, while using the system to classify bottom objects of interest.
The AQS-24 sonar is a rapidly deployable sonar system that provides acoustic images for detection, classification and localization of bottom and moored mines. The AQS-24 equipment includes an actively-controlled towed body, an electromechanical tow cable and signal processing and recording electronics. The towed body contains a synthetic aperture side scan, multi-beam sonar that provides a wide range of focused acoustic signals. An optional laser line scan section can be attached to provide optical target identification.
“The AQS-24 minehunting system performed superbly at tow depths up to and beyond 400 feet,” said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. “This latest internal research and development effort underscores our commitment to provide the most innovative, affordable and operationally-proven capabilities to meet the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mine Countermeasures Mission (MCM) package requirements and future expeditionary MCM needs.”
Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman demonstrated an autonomy upgrade path for the AQS-24’s minehunting system by integrating and successfully testing the company’s image exploitation suite, incorporating state-of-the-art machine learning for automatic target recognition (ATR) using multiple ATR algorithms. Following this successful demonstration, the U.S. Navy plans to incorporate this new capability into existing AQS-24 minehunting systems.
The success of Deep Tow is now followed by the recently commenced in-water testing of Northrop Grumman’s AQS-24 system on the Navy’s MCM unmanned surface vessel (USV) at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City. This is in preparation for user operated evaluation system testing aboard the LCS in 2020. The AQS-24’s newly doubled depth capability is planned for integration and test with the MCM USV system.
These major enhancements to the U.S. Navy’s only operational minehunting towed sonar – running deeper, automatically detecting and reporting targets, and providing the transition to the LCS MCM USV – increases the operational effectiveness of the AQS-24 system while providing the warfighter with an unprecedented capability that affordably meets operational needs and provides a proven path for continued integration of state-of-the-art technology.
Currently, Sea mines pose a significant threat to U.S., allied and commercial shipping, particularly in navigation choke points and transit lanes.