The Navy recently awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] a $45 million contract for Phase 3 of low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS).

“What’s critical to the warfighter is the performance of the system. Dan Chang, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of Maritime and Tactical Systems said in a statement. “We are confident that DT-IIE results will prove the unique threat detection value and performance of our ALMDS.”

The ALMDS pod is mounted on an MH-60S helicopter. Flying over sea lanes, it spots mines with its pulsed laser light and streak tube receivers by imaging, in 3-D, day or night, the near-surface of the ocean.

The company has delivered five pods to date. The Navy is performing the Developmental Flight Test-IIE (DT-IIE) program from its Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division site in Florida. These tests lead towards Operational Evaluation and the full-rate production decision next year.

The contract includes the production of four pods, spares, product development and support at a lower cost-per-pod than in previous lots.

“What’s critical to the Defense Department is getting great value for their investments.” Chang added. “Because of the hard work of our ALMDS contractor team, we were able to reduce the per-pod price by several percent, enabling the Navy to procure one additional pod system over and above the Phase 2 lot buy.”

This effort follows in the footsteps of the team’s previous program success: delivering all three Phase 2 pods ahead of schedule.

The Northrop Grumman ALMDS team comprises Areté Associates, Tucson, Ariz., manufacturer of the Receiver Sensor Assembly; Cutting Edge Optronics, a Northrop Grumman subsidiary in St. Charles, Mo., builder of the high-powered laser transmitter; CPI Aero, Edgewood, N.Y., manufacturer of the pod housing; Curtiss Wright/DY4, San Diego, manufacturer of the central electronics chassis; and Meggitt Defense Systems, Irvine, Calif., the company that produces the environmental control system.