Northrop Grumman has completed initial in-water testing of the AQS-24 mine hunting sonar using a next-generation Deploy and Retrieval (D&R) payload.

During the testing process, the AQS-24 D&R was operated from the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV).

It demonstrated the unmanned operations needed to perform a mine-hunting mission off the MCM Mission Package aboard the US Navy’s littoral combat ship (LCS).

Northrop Grumman undersea systems vice-president Alan Lytle said: “Achieving this important milestone demonstrated reliable unmanned mine hunting operations, while using operationally representative hardware from the LCS MCM Mission Module.

“This allows the programme to begin preparation for further at-sea testing of the system for extended duration missions in rigorous conditions.”

The MCM USV tests have been performed ahead of the planned user-operated evaluation system testing of the sonar on LCSs.

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Various versions of Northrop Grumman’s AQS-24 sonar provide mine-hunting capabilities for navies.

The AQS-24B makes use of side-scan sonar for detection, localisation and classification of the bottom and moored mines in real-time and a laser line scanner for precise optical identification.

With the integration of the AQS-24 sonar with USVs, all AQS-24 data can be transmitted in real-time to a remote sonar operator.

Later on, the operator can start a real-time mission analysis (RTMA) of all recorded mission data.

RTMA is capable of reducing MCM detect to engage timelines and the real-time reacquisition and identification of bottom mines after traditional mine hunting sorties.

Last October, Northrop Grumman successfully completed a system test for the AQS-24 minehunting sonar off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.