Northrop Grumman has delivered the first shipset of lightweight wide aperture array (LWWAA) hardware for the US Navy’s Block IV Virginia Class Submarine (VCS) programme.

Representing the 19th shipset supplied by Northrop to support the VCS programme, the latest supply marks the start of delivery of a series of ten shipments at the rate of two per year to Huntington Ingalls Industries.

The company will also provide the acoustic array assemblies and hardware required to install the arrays on the exterior of the vessels.

"LWWAA gives the navy a distinctive edge over sensors being used by any other naval force."

Northrop Grumman mission systems undersea systems vice-president Alan Lytle said: "LWWAA gives the navy a distinctive edge over sensors being used by any other naval force.

“The early delivery of this first Block IV LWWAA shipset continues a tradition of 114 consecutive early array deliveries by Northrop Grumman Undersea Systems in support of the Virginia Class Submarine programme.”

The LWWAA shipset consists of six array panels that are mounted on either side of the submarine to provide important sonar sensor input to the vessel's combat system.

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The system uses fibre-optic and laser technologies to convert the acoustic energy generated by the targeted submarine in the water into information to identify and track it.

Currently available as the only fibre-optic passive hull-mounted sensor array in the market, LWWAA is critical to the operation of the US navy’s VCS fleet and is central in the next-generation undersea sensors development.

Image: LWWAA is critical to the operation of the US Navy’s Virginia-class submarines. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corporation.