Northrop Grumman, together with the US Navy, has begun developmental flight tests (DT-IIE) for the airborne laser mine detection system (ALMDS) at the navy’s Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Florida.

The DT-IIE is the second phase of the flight test programme of operational evaluation and potential approval for the full-rate production of ALMDS in 2011.

Northrop’s ALMDS is an airborne mine countermeasures system specifically designed to help US and allied ships to counter underwater mines.

The system uses pulsed laser light and streak tube receivers to image in 3D, day or night, the near-surface of the ocean.

Mounted on an MH-60S helicopter, the 9ft-long ALMDS will serve as a key component of the littoral combat ship mine countermeasures mission package.

The US Navy has received five ALMDS pods from Northrop under LRIP phase 1 and 2 contracts while a phase 3 contract is expected to begin in 2011.