Northrop Grumman [NOC] has finished developing the AQS-24C mine hunting upgrade and delivered the first two systems to the Navy, the company said Wednesday.

The AQS-24C upgrades the 24B model by adding in-stride volume search capability to a mine hunting unit deployed from either an MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopter or the mine hunting unit unmanned surface vehicle (MHU USV). The basic AQS-24 only supported optical identification and not volume search.

An AQS-24 being deployed from an MH-53E helicopter. (Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Separate form the 24C development program, Northrop Grumman is executing a contract to integrate the overall AQS-24 system on the Navy’s MHU USV, which will then be evaluated for operational use from surface platforms.

The company said the AQS-24C recently finished shipboard contractor testing and government helicopter testing on the MH-53E, although did not disclose when. Upon finishing that development milestone, Northrop Grumman said it started reduction “to meet the fleet generation requirement for increased mine hunting capability.”

“The AQS-24C is a cost effective upgrade to an existing system, providing long range volume search mine hunting while minimizing development costs and providing great value to the U.S. Navy customer,” Alan Lytle, Northrop Grumman vice president for undersea systems, said in a statement.

Last year, a May Defense Department report affirmed the Navy was keeping its planned Littoral Combat Ship Mine Countermeasures Synthetic Aperture Sonar programs of record since no possible replacements offered adequate performance. This includes the AQS-24C as a deploy and retrieve system integrated into both Sea Dragons and USVs (Defense Daily, May 23, 2018).