Northrop Grumman Wins US Navy Contracts for Laser Detection Systems and Mission Packages

Announced on February 2, 2015, the United States Navy awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a contract to provide the military branch with a further supply of its AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (or ALMDS). Northrop Grumman has already delivered 12 ALMDS pods to the U.S. Navy from an initial low rate production lot. The new contract will provide five more pod subsystems for ALMDS, as well as offer support equipment, spares, and technical help.

First deployed in August of 2014, the ALMDS was initially used in the Middle East with the Fifth Fleet. Mounted on the Sikorsky MH-60S helicopter, this technology is capable of sweeping sea lanes for mine-like objects from the sky.

The ALMDS uses pulsed laser light, developed by Northrop’s subsidiary (Cutting Edge Optronics) and streak tube receivers to image the ocean and detect any peculiar objects. This system transmits a fan-like beam towards the ocean surface á la pushing a broom and uses four cameras and target recognition software to identify and store any irregularities. The image is then relayed to technicians on the ground who determine the threat status of the object.

Other companies involved in developing the technology include: Areté Associates which makes the receiver sensor assembly, CPI Aerostructures which produces the pod housing, Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions which constructs the central electronics chassis, and Meggitt Defence Systems which makes the environmental control system.

In the same week, Northrop Grumman received a separate but related contract from the US Navy for two Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mission packages. LCS has three primary missions: surface warfare, mine countermeasures, and anti-submarine warfare. The ALMDS system is part of the mine countermeasures package for the LCS and Northrop was selected to provide another package for surface warfare. Worth approximately USD$21.6 million, this contract requires Northrop Grumman to supply mission modules ensuring LCS capabilities for its operations. Mission modules entail individual components and support equipment which are mission specific and easily installed on the LCS fleet.

The LCS was designed with high interchangeability and multi-functionality in mind. With less fixed equipment, these ships instead have large compartments for modular gear (weapons, electronics, technology, etc.) for a variety of purposes.

Thus far, Northrop Grumman has delivered three mine countermeasures modules and three surface warfare modules. In 2015, the corporation will deliver one additional mine countermeasures modules and two surface warfare modules.

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