The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) has received the first of four AQS-24A airborne mine-hunting systems from Northrop Grumman for integration onto its new Kawasaki Heavy Industries-built airborne mine countermeasure MCH-101 helicopters.
Delivery follows contract previously awarded to the company to supply a total of four AQS-24A airborne mine hunting systems in support of the JMSDF’s new MCH-101 helicopter platform.
Northrop Grumman Undersea Systems business unit vice-president Tom Jones said that the AQS-24A airborne mine-hunting vehicle delivery marked a major milestone in the Japan’s airborne mine-hunting capability development.
"It demonstrates that the configuration baseline is relevant to modern threats, can be rapidly produced, and is suitable for other international and domestic customers," Jones said.
The AQS-24A high-speed mine-hunting system has been designed to provide precision optical identification of underwater mines and other objects of interest using laser line scanner.
Featuring advanced navigation controls and processing to provide highly accurate target positioning, the AQS-24A can significantly enhance area coverage rate, reduce the mine clearance timeline and eliminate unnecessary maintenance cycles.
Northrop will deliver its first of four airborne laser mine detection systems (ALMDS) to JMSDF later in the next few months, with them being operated in conjunction with the AQS-24A.
"These two mine detection systems will provide Japan with an unprecedented, complete surface-to-bottom mine detection capability from a helicopter," Jones further said.
The AQS-24A system, initially developed to conduct missions primarily from the US Navy’s Sikorsky MH-53E Sea Dragon airborne mine countermeasure helicopter, and its predecessors, AQS-24 and AQS-14 have been operational with the US Navy since 1985.
In addition to providing transportation support for Antarctic exploration, the MCH-101 helicopter can be used for minesweeping and transport missions from shore, as well as from JMSDF ships, including Hyuga-class helicopter carrier vessels.
Image: A JMSDF’s MCH-101 helicopter positioned at Iwakuni Airfield in Japan. Photo: courtesy of Kurokishi.