The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force has received the first MCH-101 helicopter equipped with airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) from AgustaWestland and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI).

The MCH-101 features the Northrop Grumman AN/AQS-24A airborne mine hunting system and AN/AES-1 airborne laser mine detection system, which offer a complete surface-to-bottom mine detection capability.

A licence-built version of the AgustaWestland AW101 helicopter, MCH-101 is one of only two types that is capable of towing the AN/AQS-24A.

The helicopter will now go through evaluation trials with the 51st Experimental Squadron and is expected to start service in next year.

For this project, KHI developed the AMCM variant of the AW101/MCH-101, with technical support from AgustaWestland.

The company also carried out system integration and design of the AN/AQS-24A carriage, as well as the deploy, tow and recovery system that is installed in the cabin.

In addition to technical support, AgustaWestland also modified the aircraft’s automatic flight control system (AFCS) for coupled towing patterns with the AN/AQS-24A, the company said.

"The MCH-101 features the Northrop Grumman AN/AQS-24A airborne mine hunting system."

The high-speed airborne mine hunting system AN/AQS-24A features a high-resolution, side scan sonar for real-time detection, localisation and classification of bottom and moored mines at high-area coverage rates.

It also has a laser line scanner, which delivers precision optical identification of underwater mines and other objects of interest.

The ALMDS uses pulsed laser light and streak tube receivers fixed in an external equipment pod to capture the entire near-surface volume potentially containing mines.

The present delivery represents the eighth of 13 AW101s that KHI is building under licence from AgustaWestland for the Japan Maritime Defense Force. The delivered aircraft include six MCH-101s and two CH-101s.

Image: MCH-101 provides a complete surface-to-bottom mine detection capability. Photo: courtesy of AgustaWestland.