Northrop Grumman eyes Australian trial for minehunting system

Atlas-AQS-24_ Underway5723Northrop Grumman has showcased the AQS-24B minehunting system, which the company is looking at bringing to Australia next year to participate in the Autonomous Warrior trial.

The AQS-24B is marketed as the only deployed and operationally proven high-speed airborne or surface-towed minehunting system in the world.

The system could be used to clear the way for an amphibious landing, for example.

The AQS-24B combines a high-speed synthetic aperture sonar with a laser-line-scan optical system to detect, localise, classify and identify mines.

The US Navy operates 27 systems in two different ways. Four of them are used with an unmanned surface vessel (USV) in Bahrain for development work, and the others are towed by the MH‑53E helicopter.

When operated from a USV, the system is capable of performing minehunting at a speed of up to 18 knots.

“This technology is no longer a developmental technology; it is an engineering answer to a question,” said Dave Allan, business development manager at Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, speaking at PACIFIC 2017 on Wednesday.

“It is out there. We took it to Unmanned Warrior in Britain and it was successful there, and we took it to the Belgian MCM [mine countermeasures] trials this year.”

Here in Australia, Northrop Grumman is targeting the later stages of the SEA 1180 Offshore Patrol Vessels project and the SEA 1778 minehunting project.

“We are committed to trying to be here,” Allan said of the Autonomous Warrior trial, which is expected to be held at Jervis Bay.

“As far as being able to do it right now, the export licence is in place to do it, including the temporary export licence to bring the thing to country…right now it is a budgetary issue, and it is not cheap to ship a system like that down here.”