Navy takes closer look at helicopter laser sea mine detection system before full-scale production decision



PANAMA CITY, Fla., 2 Sept. 2011. U.S. Navy mine-warfare experts are asking engineers at the Northrop Grumman Corp. Battle Management & Engagement Systems Division, Melbourne, Fla., to build three additional AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) systems as part of the ALMDS low-rate initial production phase before making a decision on full-scale development. The order comes from officials of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division in Panama City, Fla.

The ALMDS mounts to the Navy's MH-60 Seahawk helicopter, and uses pulsed lasers to detect, classify, and pinpoint floating and near-surface moored mines placed at sea to deny important sea lanes to military and commercial ship traffic. The system is especially intended for counter-mine operations on the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

Northrop Grumman Battle Management & Engagement Systems has been developing the ALMDS system since 2000, and Navy officials want to ensure that the Northrop Grumman ALMDS design meets all requirements in ALMDS systems specifications before making a decision on moving the system to full-scale development, or what military procurement specialists call engineering and manufacturing development, or EMD. Navy officials announced the order for three more Northrop Grumman ALMDS systems this week in contract-modification notice.

The ALMDS will be among the first airborne organic airborne mine-countermeasures systems fielded, Northrop Grumman officials say. It uses pulsed laser light and streak tube receivers mounted in a pod on the left side of the MH-60 helicopter to provide 3d imagery of the ocean's surface, as well as areas just below the surface where concealed mines pose a threat to surface ships.

The system can operate during the day and at night, and uses the forward motion of the helicopter to generate image data; it does not need complex scanning mechanisms. The ALMDS pod weighs about 820 pounds, is nearly nine feet long, and has a diameter of less than two feet. AMLCD contact data displays on the MH-60's common console and stored on a mass memory unit for later analysis.

The AMLCD program now is in the low rate initial production, or LRIP phase. Overseeing the program are officials of the Navy's Mine Warfare (MIW) Program Office (PMS 495) in the Program Executive Office for Littoral Mine Warfare (PEO(LMW) at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City.

For more information contact Northrop Grumman Battle Management & Engagement Systems online at www.as.northropgrumman.com, or the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division at www.navsea.navy.mil/nswc/panamacity.

Related stories

-- Ocean mines have nowhere to hide;

-- Laser weapons development is pushing laser technology out of the laboratory and into directed-energy weapons applications in the field; and

-- Northrop Grumman looks to VMETRO for laser mine detection system chassis.

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