Northrop Grumman begins delivery of new towed mine hunting sonar

On 6 February, Northrop Grumman announced that the company successfully completed the development of the AQS-24C towed mine hunting sonar and delivered the first two systems to the U.S. Navy.

The AQS-24C upgrade adds an in-stride volume search capability to the AQS-24B.

The AQS-24C builds on the AQS-24B that was introduced to the fleet in 2017, which has continued to excel in naval operations from both the MH-53E helicopter and the mine hunting unit unmanned surface vehicle (MHU USV) platforms.

The newly developed AQS-24C systems recently completed shipboard contractor testing and government helicopter testing on the MH-53E platform. Achieving this development milestone has resulted in the start of production to meet the fleet generated requirement for increased mine hunting capability.

“The AQS-24C is a cost effective upgrade to an existing system, providing long range volume search mine hunting while minimizing development costs and providing great value to the U.S. Navy customer,” said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. “This new capability will keep sailors out of harm’s way and shorten the mine clearance timeline.”

Northrop Grumman is concurrently executing a separate contract for integration of the AQS-24 onto the U.S. Navy’s MHU USV, which will be evaluated for operational use from U.S. Navy surface platforms.

A few weeks ago, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division has reported that Brett Thach, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division’s (NSWC PCD) Airborne Mine Countermeasures (AMCM) AN/AQS-24 Project Engineer, and his team, recently worked in concert with Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 (HM-15) to successfully complete government acceptance testing for the AN/AQS-24C Mine Detecting Set.

Members of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Squadron 15 position the AN/AQS-24C Mine Detecting Set to ready it for loading aboard the MH-53E Sea Dragon MCM helicopter for at-sea testing in the Gulf Test Range June 3, 2018. U.S. Navy photo by Ron Newsome.

According to Thach, the success of this government acceptance testing, which took place during June of 2018, is quite an important milestone achievement because it marks the completion of the developmental phase of the program and also serves as a government decision point for proceeding into the production phase of the program.

NSWC PCD’s AMCM branch serves as the In-Service Engineering Agents for the operational Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons, HM-14 and HM-15; which both fly the MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter. These squadrons are capable of rapidly deploying anywhere in the world within just 72 hours so they can use this sonar system, along with the other AMCM systems, to clear the waterways of underwater mines deployed by adversaries.

Thach said working in NSWC PCD’s AMCM branch is extremely rewarding.

“I feel very blessed,” said Thach. “I’m thankful to be able to work directly with the Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadrons. Getting to support and interact with sailors that are making daily sacrifices to keep Americans safe is truly an honor.”

NSWC PCD is considered the nation’s premier technical center for mine warfare and mine countermeasures. In addition, our geographical location, with near-perfect year-round testing conditions makes us ideally suited for AMCM testing and training.

Flight Test crew member of Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15 shown in flight ready to begin Government Acceptance Testing of the AN/AQS-24C Mine Detecting Set June 19, 2018. U.S. Navy photo by Anthony Powers.

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