The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) has procured four airborne laser mine detection systems (ALMDS) from Northrop Grumman for use on its AgustaWestland MCH-101 helicopters to better protect its coastline and daily maritime traffic.

US Navy ALMDS programme manager Donna Carson-Jelley said: ‘ALMDS will enable the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force to cover significant distances at the speed of flight using its MCH-101 aircraft. This technology dramatically compresses the time between mine detection and neutralisation.’

The 9ft long ALMDS is an airborne mine countermeasures system that will serve as a key component for the littoral combat ship mine countermeasures mission package.

The helicopter-mounted system can quickly locate surface and near-surface moored mines and neutralise them using streak tube imaging light detection and ranging (LIDAR) before they cause damage to military or commercial ships.

The high area coverage rate capability system uses pulsed laser light and streak tube receivers housed in an external equipment pod to produce 3D images of entire near-surface volume area of the sea.

Images received by the system are then sorted out for potential mine-like objects by an automatic target recognition algorithm and stored for classification by shipboard fleet operators.

Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems Military Aircraft Systems sector vice president and general Pat McMahon manager said that the addition of ALMDS system will also enable the US Navy and JMSDF to exchange information during allied operations.

Delivery and installation of ALMDS will be carried out by Northrop in partnership with Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Fujitsu. The purchase represents first direct international commercial sale of the system from Northrop.

Since 1982, the JMSDF has been operating the Northrop-built E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning command and control system.