Northrop Grumman has successfully demonstrated unmanned mine-hunting capabilities with the use of high-speed AQS-24B sensors during the Belgian Defence Technology and Industry Day trials at Zeebrugge naval base.

The current exercise is a follow-on to the successful operation conducted during Unmanned Warrior in Scotland in October last year, which demonstrated the high area coverage rate (ACR) that can be attained by combining Atlas Elektronik UK’s ARCIMS unmanned surface vessel (USV) and Northrop Grumman’s AQS-24B mine hunting system.

Atlas Elektronik's USV unit is an extremely stable platform that can be best used to tow the high-speed AQS-24B in rough seas.

The exercise highlighted the AQS-24B payload's modularity and capacity for integration, and also demonstrated the significance of the laser line scan sensor, which functions as a gap-filler for the high-speed synthetic aperture sonar.

Northrop Grumman Mission Systems Undersea Systems vice-president Alan Lytle said: “Our team’s demonstration at Belgium North Sea unmanned mine countermeasure (MCM) trials proves that unmanned systems combined with the right payloads can perform high-speed MCM tasks, greatly reducing the mine clearance timeline while keeping naval personnel out of harm’s way.

"The ARCIMS and AQS-24B combination provides a highly effective and affordable MCM solution for our allies and theatre security partners."

“The ARCIMS and AQS-24B combination provides a highly effective and affordable MCM solution for our allies and theatre security partners.”

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Atlas Elektronik’s ARCIMS USV is a system of choice for several navies and is considered one of the most successful in-service maritime autonomous mission systems.

The vessel can be specifically customised to carry out multiple mission roles such as minesweeping, mine hunting and disposal, and coastal surveillance and anti-submarine warfare (ASW), in addition to hydrography, maritime security and force protection.

Image: Atlas Elektronik UK’s ARCIMS unmanned surface vessel. Photo: courtesy of Northrop Grumman Corporation.