The US Navy (USN) now has 10 production Raytheon AQS-20C mine-hunting sonar units in the fleet, as the service hopes these can help shift to single sortie detect-to-engage (SSDTE) mine clearance missions.
The AQS-20C has gone through testing but Raytheon and the USN are continuing to learn about how to use it, Randy Brandenburg, Raytheon's seapower business development executive, told Jane's . He expects there could be another competition for another production run, but the navy has not yet finalised or announced such a decision.
The C-model differs from the earlier AQS-20A largely through changes to the software, the forward-looking sonar, and some reliability improvements, Brandenburg said. The towed body is 3.2 m long, 39.2 cm wide, weighs 442.3 kg (outside of water), and provides 2.5 kW power.
The AN/AQS-20C is fitted with a Wide Band Forward Looking Sonar (WBFLS), a Gap Filling Sonar (GFS), and high-resolution side-scanning Synthetic Aperture Sonars (SASs).
Combined, the WBFLS, GFS, and SASs are designed "to detect and classify mine-like objects from the sea floor to the near surface in a single pass", Raytheon said. "The high-resolution acoustic ID Sonar, with advanced Automated Target Recognition [ATR] capabilities, operates in conjunction with the electro-optic sensor to provide the identification capability essential to support a true autonomous, single sortie detect-to-engage mission."
The electro-optics identification capability provides high-definition images of bottom mines using Streak Tube Imaging Laser (STIL) technology, Raytheon said. "The STIL technology provides the operator with both range and contrast data for post-mission analysis to aid in mine identification."
The AQS-20C can be operated in four modes: Single Pass Shallow (SPS) for bottom and moored mine coverage in a single pass, Single Pass Deep (SPD) for moored mine coverage in deep water, Volume Mine (VOL) for coverage at four times the area search rate, and Identification (ID SPS) mode for bottom and moored mine coverage in a single pass with optical imaging of bottom mines.
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