The US Navy’s Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS) achieved initial operating capability (IOC) on 13 January. The first international sale occurred in 2012 to Japan, where the system is being trialled on an MCH-101 helicopter.
Typically deployed on an MH-60S helicopter, ALMDS can be mounted on relatively small helicopters, thus allowing it to operate from smaller vessels, such as the frigate-sized Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Developed by Northrop Grumman, the solution is unique, according to the company’s Vice President for Directed Energy, Mark Skinner. “Using forward motion of the aircraft, ALMDS’ pulsed laser light generates 3D images of the near-surface volume to detect, classify and localise near-surface moored sea mines. Highly accurate in day or night operations, the untethered ALMDS sensor conducts rapid wide-area searches with high accuracy," he explained.
The system leverages a sensor pod to rapidly sweep the water using laser technology. The sensor pod can also be rapidly installed on a medium-lift helicopter and quickly removed after mission completion. The target data generated can then be stored for post-mission analysis.
The LCS will also operate the Airborne Mine Neutralisation System from the MH-60S, which will navigate an independent vehicle to a submerged mine and detonate it, as well as the Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, the Unmanned Surface Sweep System and the KNIFEFISH UUV.