Navy tests helicopter-lowered submarine warhead to detonate enemy mines

(Warrior Maven)

The Navy can now use sonar and video guided underwater warheads to attack and destroy enemy sea mines on the bottom of the ocean, improving protection for submarines and ships while bringing new combat capability to the maritime war operation, the officials said.

Working from an MH-60S maritime helicopter, the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) is designed to Carrier Strike Groups, Expeditionary Strike Groups, and Amphibious assault missions to improve the control of access, while reducing the risk to surface ships and sailors.

“The Navy established a requirement for a rapid neutralization of bottom and moored sea mines to support operations in coastal zones, limited to the streets, choke points, and amphibious objective” Alan Baribeau, Spokesman for the Naval Sea Systems Command, told the Warrior Maven.

The emerging technology that is now being assessed in tests and in combat-like scenarios by the Navy, is scheduled to deploy Littoral Combat Ships and other surface ships in the coming years. The AMNS, also known as the Archer Fish, receive surveillance information from a range of different Marine systems, to reconfirm the target, it lowers beneath the surface, and destroys the mine.

“Usually, the Archer Fish is cued by a towed sonar. It goes after bottom targets, but not the ones that are found in the vicinity of the surface,” Capt. Danielle George, Program Manager, Mine Warfare, told the Warrior Maven in an interview.

The system consists of a Load Handling System (LHS) and, destructor, or warhead. The LHS, which is used as an interface between the explosive destructor and common console on board the helicopter, can carry up to four destructors. The destructor is equipped with a sonar system, video camera and light to confirm that the identified enemy of me; it connects with the common console via a fiber-optic data link, Navy officials said. The LHS contains all the data-processing hardware and software, the developers explain.

“The destructor is negatively buoyant, has six degrees of motion, can maintain a hover position, and can be used in automatic or manual mode. The destructor can monitor depth and relative distance from the bottom edge and has the ability to avoid bottom plowing. The destructor of the position is determined by an Integrated Track Point II acoustic tracking system contained in the LHS,” Baribeau said.

The Navy is the reference to the “bottlenecks” seems to have a number of of the present very hot spots known to present mine threats, such as the coastal areas around the South china sea and the much-talked-of Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East. This waterway is recognised as a potential area for Iranian threats, such as swarming small boat attacks and sea mines. Many ask the question, or the tensions with Iran can motivate a desire on their part to try to close, or a threat to the strategically vital and well-attended “choke point.” The detection of mines more efficiently and at greater distances, with systems such as AMNS, of course, was the massive impact of the US Navy’s ability to respond to this kind of threat.

The richness and enormous variety of mine threats can also make the detection more challenging. Some so-called “bottom mines” can be buried, or in the shallow water mines is easily triggered by ships or submarines. Moored mines, however, often attached to the bottom of the sea, can be found in the deeper parts of the water column. They can linger under the surface, or possibly work on a much greater depth to target ships with a larger draught, according to a 2014 NATO essay called “Naval Mines and Countermeasures.”

“The explosive and detonating mechanism (moored mines) is included in a rugged metal or plastic housing. The depth below the surface at which the mine floats can be set so that only deep draft vessels such as aircraft carriers, battleships or large cargo ships are at risk,” NATO paper writes.

Modern Countermine Strategy

Countermine warfare has taken on a much greater urgency in the past few years, given the proliferation of cheap sea mine technology, and the range of potential adversaries who could employ, according to a National Research Council and the Naval Studies Board published text of 2001 – “Naval Mine Warfare, Operational and Technical Challenges for naval forces.”

The tracing of the origin of the Navy, stepped massively-up mine warfare emphasis as far back as the Gulf War, “Naval Mine Warfare” cites a “growing realization that sea mines are readily available to potential adversaries to US.” The essay specifically cites Russia as a key supplier of modern mine weapons and states that more than 50 countries possess sea mining opportunities.

It is interesting that, while written nearly two decades ago, “Naval Mine Warfare” succeeds in anticipating a number of key strategic considerations are now inspiring Navy think about the modern countermine technology. For example, the Navy and the growing emphasis on disaggregated activities, which of course underlines the importance of countermine missions, is explicitly included in the essay.

“In the future, surface warships and submarines can be scattered around the theatre, doing the important task of unit operations – strikes, fire support, and theater air defense – unlike mainly in the vicinity of a battle group. Warships thus have to employ a lot of their own self-protection against various threats, including mines,” the Naval Mine Warfare paper writes.

In fact, the Navy and the Amphibious Warfare Strategy and the changing approach to the surface to fight specifically calls for a greater opportunity for vessels to carry a wider range of more autonomous or split activities. Instead of traveling mainly in the Carrier Strike Groups or Amphibious Ready Groups, individual ships such as amphibs or the Littoral Combat Ship are increasingly equipped to work independently of each other.

In fact, this approach is an essential part of the strategic analysis of the question of why the Navy replaced the fleet of the LSD-Dock Landing Ship amphibs with more LPD 17 – Amphibious transport Dock-like vessels, such as the development of LXR. The new LXR amphib, now in development, is designed with increased command and control, surveillance and aviation assets. Technological changes such as the increasing threat of the long range of enemy sensors and weapons, such as anti-ship missiles, requires that many ships operate in a more dispersed or distributed fashion in many combat scenarios.

Broken down ships can both leverage the progress in the long series networking technologies to remain closely connected with wider vehicles, but operate in a less aggregated fashion to present more spread out or difficult targets for enemy attacks.

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