Friday, July 2, 2010
US Navy Begins Testing Laser Mine Detection System
Northrop Grumman Corporation and the U.S. Navy have begun the next phase of the flight test program leading to the "final exam" Operational Evaluation and potential approval next year for full-rate production of the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS). The Navy is conducting the Developmental Flight Test-IIE (DT-IIE) program from its Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division site in Florida. The first flight occurred on June 8. ALMDS is an airborne mine countermeasures system, one of several systems in development by Northrop Grumman to address the threat posed by mines to U.S. and allied ships.
ALMDS uses its pulsed laser light and streak tube receivers to image in 3-D, day or night, the near-surface of the ocean.
The system is housed in a pod that is mounted on the port side of an MH-60S helicopter and measures just under nine feet long with a 21-inch diameter. ALMDS will be a key component of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mine Countermeasures Mission Package. Northrop Grumman also is the LCS Mission Package Integrator for the Navy.
"Mines are worldwide, inexpensive, and readily available to terrorists and rogue nations for use against military and commercial ships," said Dan Chang, vice president of Northrop Grumman Maritime and Tactical Systems. "Being able to find them rapidly, without slowing the pace of our fleet, is the purpose of ALMDS. It's about getting the sailor out of the minefield wherever possible."
The Navy will fly ALMDS approximately 40 times during the DT-IIE evaluation. A technical evaluation will follow and will lead to the full-scale Operational Evaluation late next year.
"We've had four flights to date and, though I can't go into details, the feedback we've gotten is that the system is performing well and reliably," said Chang. "The flight test data have allowed us to make a few minor software adjustments that have sharpened the capabilities of the system."
Northrop Grumman has delivered five ALMDS pods to the Navy, all on or ahead of schedule, under LRIP phase-1 and -2 contracts. An LRIP phase-3 contract is expected later this year