Northrop Grumman is stepping up its efforts to mature the AQS-24 mine hunting sensor’s baseline technology and provide variants of the system to the US Navy and other naval services around the globe. Twenty-seven AQS-24Bs have been delivered to the US Navy and are in operation in Commander Fifth Fleet (Middle East) and other areas of responsibility. The AQS-24B system includes the world’s first combined operational High-Speed Synthetic Aperture Sonar and an optical laser line scan sensor, which provides complete coverage out to maximum range on a single pass, and has other capabilities including being self-stabilising (pitch and roll) while under tow.
“We can launch and fully operate in sea state 3 [0.5-1.25m (1ft 8in to 4ft 1in))] and recover in state 4, and if you placed the -24 on larger vessels you could operate it in higher sea states,” David Allan, the company’s Manager of International Business Development for Undersea Systems, added.
While L3 ASV’s (Hampshire UK) “ASV HELM” system controls a hosted-USV platform remotely, AQS-24B is controlled (including launch and recovery) by NG electronics. Also significant, “We can get near real-time data back to the vessel itself, allowing us to look at mines and other contacts as we are doing mission analysis,” the community expert emphasised.
As the current laser is turbidity dependent, the US Navy has issued an engineering change proposal to bolster the systemme’s performance for the “B” variant in variant turbid water conditions. However, it is the AQS-24B’s 18kt full-speed for line detection, that is reportedly the discriminator, distancing it from other mine-hunting competitors.
A partial list of Northrop Grumman’s other industry partners for its AN/AQS-24B includes Fairlead (Norfolk, Virginia) for the launch and recovery systemme and OKEANUS (Redmond, Washington) for the winch. On the international side of the business portfolio, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force is in the planning stages for the upgrade of its “4As” to the “B” model. Further, the AQS-24B was demonstrated at the request of the Royal Australian Navy in last December’s, service-sponsored Autonomous Warrior 2018 exercise in Jervis Bay, Australia. “Two Middle East North Africa countries have expressed strong interest in this systemme. We’re also in several competitions in Europe – one in Denmark and one in Belgium/ Netherlands,” Mr Allan concluded.