Raytheon plans to demonstrate the solution developed with AEUK in October off the coast of Scotland for the Royal Navy. The demonstration will continue next year as part of an event called “Wilton Industry Show and Experiment for Mine Counter Measures”, or WISE-X. According to a notice issued in May 2021, the WISE-X trials will take place March to September 2022.
Conducted in the Clyde, WISE-X will offer the industry an opportunity to showcase capabilities for the Royal Navy’s Mine countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) Block 2 step. Launched in 2014, MHC calls for the delivery of a fully autonomous minehunting capability in the first years of the 2030s.
AQS-20C is the Programme of Record for the United States Navy’s mine hunting capability embarked in the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The sensor provides simultaneous coverage of the water column and ocean bottom at an optimum tow speed for Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) performance and mine hunting mission management.
Raytheon Missiles & Defense already demonstrated the AQS-20C sonar mine-hunting system in an exercise at the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island for the United Kingdom and other potential international customers.
With four separate sonars in a compact, lightweight and hydro-dynamically stable towed body, the sensor package features market-leading SAS signal processing that generates identification-quality acoustic images using advanced computer algorithms.
Two synthetic aperture sonars provide acoustic identification in all water conditions, while a wideband forward-looking sonar simultaneously hunts mines. A digital gap-filler sonar detects mines directly under the towed body. This technology enables real-time detection and classification against the full spectrum of threat mines including bottom mines, buoyant mines, and near-surface mines simultaneously.
“The AQS-20C covers more of the water space in a shorter space of time than any other system,” said Frank Linkous, associate director for undersea warfare systems, Raytheon Missiles & Defense. “This system dramatically reduces clearance timelines for the MCM mission commander, restoring freedom of manoeuvre for naval forces.”
If the AQS-20C detects a mine, mine counter-measures forces can neutralize it with a Barracuda – a semi-autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle that identifies and destroys mines. Barracuda, developed by Raytheon Missiles & Defense, is expected to be deployed by 2026.
“This is a revolutionary approach,” Linkous said in a previous press release. “Rather than having to detect, classify and neutralize sequentially, with time lags in between, MCM (mine counter-measure) forces will be able to find the mines and neutralize them – all in the same mission.”
The AQS-20C can be successfully operated from helicopters, ships, RHIBs and unmanned and autonomous surface platforms. Deployment and recovery systems have been developed and delivered to allow autonomous deployment of the towed sonar from the US Navy’s
The ARCIMS USV offers mission package capacity, stability and speed in challenging environmental conditions. The platform which includes advanced COLREGs aware Sense & Avoid behaviours is in-service with the Royal Navy and has achieved Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) approval to operate uncrewed. With its containerised C3 system the Royal Navy has been able to demonstrate innovative uncrewed and autonomous technologies from multiple suppliers.
The system has the flexibility to adapt to individual customer’s requirements for their own environmental and threat assessments. The system can be transported by air using the air-qualified towed wheeled cradle.
“AEUK is delighted to have the opportunity to work with Raytheon UK to demonstrate the further flexibility of the ARCIMS USV, and it’s C3, in deploying and operating the AQS-20C,” said Wesley Galliver, head of AEUK’s Surface Ship Systems Division. “Our modular platforms can re-role between multiple MCM and other mission payloads, providing a true toolbox capability for the Naval user.”