The US Navy continues to compress its timeline to conduct mine clearance from months to weeks or less. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems is providing two mine hunting systemmes to permit the service to improve its mine clearance mission through a single-sortie detect-to-engage capability, whereby the mine warfare mission package completes the three phases of mine hunting operations - mine detection/classification, identification, and neutralization - in a single sortie.
Randy Brandenburg, Business Development Executive for Seapower Capability Systems at Raytheon IDS, told MONCh, that with the BARRACUDA mine neutralisation system, a mission module within the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Mission Package, and the company’s AN/AQS-20C mine hunting sonar, “we’re really close to putting the single-sortie detect-to-engage in place in the fleet today.”
BARRACUDA, which will be used to neutralise mines that have been previously located by other mine countermeasure assets, is in its design and pre-production phases. Mr Brandenburg noted that for 2019: “We’re looking to do some testing with the fleet to validate some concepts of operations and look at critical performance parameters, that’s the big focus this year – can we rapidly accelerate getting BARRACUDA into the fleet.”
Raytheon has numerous companies on its industry-led BARRACUDA team including Sparton (Schaumburg, Illinois; the provider of the launching mechanism) and others. Raytheon envisions its BARRACUDA expendable, semi-autonomous UUV, to be capable of completing other missions beyond mine neutralisation. The last AN/AQS-20C production units (nine and ten) under Raytheon’s current contract are being delivered to the US Navy. The service intends to conduct another production competition for the AN/AQS-20 system following the completion of this contract milestone.
Raytheon’s newest partner for the AN/AQS-20C is Textron Systems, which supplies its Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle (CUSV, see story here) to tow the AN/AQS-20C. Mr Brandenburg elaborated that, “we have developed a deployment and recovery systemme to allow the sonar to be rapidly deployed and retracted at the end of its mission. This has been a close, great collaboration.”
Further, the AN/AQS-20C, BARRACUDA and CUSV will be put through their paces at ANTX (Annual Navy Technology Exercise) later this year. Additionally, within the undersea domain, Raytheon delivered last November to the US Navy its AN/SQS-62 variable depth sonar. The AN/AQS-62 will be deployed from LCS to locate and track enemy submarines. The sonar is completing testing as this symposium convenes and is expected to enter wider fleet testing later this year.