“ALMDS is one of the tools in the Navy’s detection toolbox
for mining systems, which is one of the most persistent and
pervasive threats in the world’s oceans. The system itself is
flown aboard a host platform, in this case an MH-60S.
It’s a laser system that points at and penetrates the surface of the
water, and then has the ability to detect mine-like objects. … The return
from the laser is detected on the platform by cameras in the podded system. Then there’s a processor and a considerable amount of post-signal
processing on the return signal to be able to pull the associated targets
— in this case, mine-like objects — out from other things that you could
encounter in the world’s oceans. That data is then processed.
In the MH-60S, it’s integrated into the platform and displayed to the
sensor operator and also recorded, so the crew onboard has the ability to
understand that they have seen a mine-like object, but they can also take
the information back to the host platform, whether that be a large-deck
amphib or littoral combat ship … so that, in this case, the mine warfare
commodore in charge of the operation can use it to help plan his ops.
[IOC has] been the key area of focus and is the gateway to future
improvement of the systems. The next steps are we want to complete the
Navy’s buy. We would also like to take the initial feedback from the fleet.
We’re really excited that it’s going out to the Sailors and we want to see
what they think about the system. … I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot of
feedback, and we want to be able to incorporate that. The next step for the
system after that is to expand internationally.
Northrop for years has taken an interest in solving really hard problems. Detecting mines is a hard problem. I think the thing that we’re most
proud of with the system is when we’re detecting the mine, we keep the
Sailor and Marine, in this case the person who’s doing the detecting, out of
the minefield and keep them safe.”
The Airborne Laser Mine
Detection Systems (ALMDS) is a
sensor designed to scan the water
for surface and near-surface mines
using a laser and data-processing
system. The U.S. Navy is deploying
the system on MH- 60 helicopters
as a mission module of the mine
countermeasures mission package
for littoral combat ships.
Northrop Grumman has delivered
15 ALMDS to date. The Navy’s
program of record is 38. The total
production value of the contract,
if all options are exercised, is
$225 million. Four systems have
been delivered to the Japan
Maritime Self Defense Force.
ALMDS development began
in 2000 and 12 systems were
delivered under four low-rate
initial production contracts. Initial
operational capability (IOC) was
reached last fall. Helicopter Sea
Combat Squadron Three (HSC 3),
based in Port Hueneme, Calif.,
will be the first unit to deploy
with ALMDS this year.
W. Mark Skinner is vice president,
Directed Energy, for Military
Aircraft Systems at Northrop
Grumman Aerospace Systems’
Manned Aircraft Design Center of
Excellence, Melbourne, Fla.
Northrop Grumman’s ALMDS
Readies for Deployment with HSC 3
The Airborne Laser Mine Detection System aboard an MH-60S helicopter.