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Northrop Grumman completes initial trials of AQS-24B aboard MCM USV

Northrop Grumman has completed initial at-sea testing of its AQS-24B minehunting sonar using a new deploy and retrieval (D&R) payload, the company announced on 6 January.

The sonar and the associated D&R system were installed on a prototype Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel (MCM USV) to demonstrate its ability to conduct a minehunting mission as part of a MCM Mission Package aboard the US Navy’s (USN’s) Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vessel with the AQS-24B minehunting sonar seen during a sea trial.

The MCM USV tests are a prelude for USN systems testing and user evaluation of the AQS-24 sonar aboard its LCSs. Northrop Grumman stated that integration of the AQS-24 sonar with USVs enables real-time transmission of sonar data to a remote sonar operator for immediate analysis, reducing mine detection to neutralisation cycles.

“Achieving this important milestone demonstrated reliable unmanned minehunting operations, while using operationally representative hardware from the LCS MCM Mission Module,” Alan Lytle, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of undersea systems, said in a statement, adding that the demonstration will pave the way for further and more comprehensive at-sea testing of the system.

The MCM USV programme aims to produce an easily deployable offboard platform that can perform mine detection and neutralisation missions autonomously. Embarked on the USN’s LCSs, these vehicles will operate the Influence Sweep System and AQS-20 and AQS-24 minehunting sonar systems.

Three prototype vehicles built by Textron – based on its common unmanned surface vehicle (CUSV) platform – are in operation. Funds for three more development vehicles were authorised in 2018 and 2019, with an order expected to be made once the programme reaches its engineering and manufacturing development phase. A full competition for a production ready MCM USV is scheduled for 2020.

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