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Northrop Grumman, together with the US Naval Forces Central Command, has successfully demonstrated the capabilities of a mine-hunting unmanned surface vehicle (MHU) integrated with the AQS-24A mine detecting sensor system.

As part of the demonstration, carried out in the Arabian Gulf, the involved agencies assessed the unmanned potential of the MHUs in deploying, towing and recovering the system.

Northrop Grumman Undersea Systems vice-president Tom Jones said: "This navy demonstration, along with the continued investments we are making across the USV and mine-hunting technology spectrum, demonstrate that Northrop Grumman is committed to assisting the navy and our coalition partners in defeating the maritime mine threat while keeping sailors out of the minefield."

The remotely controlled MHU conducted a pre-planned operation, which involved moving to an operational area. It then deployed the AQS-24A and performed a search pattern.

"Northrop Grumman is committed to assisting the navy and our coalition partners in defeating the maritime mine threat."

Real-time situational awareness and sensor sonar data was delivered through tactical data link to the command and control (C2) station, in a bid to ensure a secure mission, while preserving its goals.

US Navy PMS 406 Unmanned Maritime Systems programme manager captain David Honabach said: "We are encouraged by the progress made with MHU I and II in [the] 5th Fleet.

"We are also pleased that we could successfully demonstrate this capability to a key coalition partner in the Arabian Gulf region and look forward to flight II mine-hunting unmanned surface vehicles [USV] for future success."

The demonstration also paves the way for the deployment of the AQS-24A during day and night missions at low operational expenses, which further reduces the time to clear ports, harbours, channels and sea lines of communications of hostile mines and other maritime navigation hazards.

In addition, the remotely operated MHU ensures that soldiers are not exposed to the risks of mined areas.

Image: The mine-hunting unmanned surface vehicle (MHU) during the demonstration. Photo: courtesy of the Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Defence Technology