Robotics and UAS

Navy gets minehunting sonar for unmanned underwater vehicles

Lockheed RMMV minehunter

The Navy is enhancing the mine detection ability of undersea unmanned vehicles for its Littoral Combat Ships.

The service has awarded a $35.5 million contract to Raytheon for AN/AQS-20A minehunting sonar systems and equipment. The system uses advanced sonar technologies to detect mines and ensure safe passage for military and civilian vessels, according to a Raytheon announcement.

The system is to be deployed on Lockheed Martin’s Remote Multi Mission Vehicle (RMMV), which provides the primary mine reconnaissance capability for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The RMMV is designed to fulfill the need for unmanned, offboard systems to detect and identify bottom and moored mines in littoral regions, significantly reducing the danger to Navy personnel and ships.

The AN/AQS-20A is the only minehunting sonar sensor tested, developed, and certified for the RMMV. The system is fully integrated and is effectively operated from the RMMV.

"An essential component of LCS, AN/AQS-20A advances the capability of the ship's mine countermeasure arsenal," said Kevin Peppe, vice president of Seapower Capability Systems for Raytheon's Integrated Defense Systems business. "Enhanced to optimize detection – in both range and accuracy, AN/AQS-20A provides the Navy with the advantage they need to safely detect and effectively identify these undersea threats."

Combined, the system is capable of detecting and classifying mine-shaped objects in a single pass, using simultaneous multisystem sonar processing and high definition, electro-optic identification. The AN/AQS-20A is the only system capable of using LASER STIL technology, providing range and contrast image data. Compared to legacy systems, the AN/AQS-20A delivers more than four times the area search rate.  

The system is part of a mine neutralization capability provided by the mine countermeasure mission package for the LCS, according to the Navy.

The RMMV first tows the AN/AQS-20A undersea to scan the water column for anti-ship mines in all directions, providing high-resolution images of mines and mine-like objects.

Once a mine is detected, the AN/ASQ-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) reacquires and neutralizes the mines. Operated from a MH-60S helicopter, the AMNS has a helicopter-based control console and is equipped with fours unmanned Archerfish neutralizer vehicles.

The contract for the AN/AQS-20A has the potential to grow in the future -- the current contract has exercisable options that would bring the cumulative value of contract to $199.7 million, with most of the work being done at Raytheon’s Portsmouth, R.I., facility.

About the Author

Joey Cheng is an editorial fellow with Defense Systems.

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