$124.5M for 3 Airborne Laser Mine Detection Systems (ALMDS)
Northrop Grumman Corp. Airborne Ground Surveillance and Battle Management Systems in Melbourne, FL received a $124.5 million firm-fixed-price/ incentives letter contract for 3 Low-Rate Initial Production units of the AN/AES-1 Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS).
Rear Admiral William E. Landay, the U.S. Navy’s Program Executive Officer for littoral and mine warfare (q.v. recent U.S. doctrinal changes in that area), said ALMDS “represents the first new technology to be applied to mine [hunting] since the advent of sonar.” In addition, Northrop Grumman has now released additional information about the devices and the program.
The AN/AES-1 ALMDS is a Light Detection and Ranging Airborne Mine Countermeasures high area coverage system that detects, classifieds, and localizes floating and near-surface moored sea mines using a blue-green laser. This gets around the inherent flight and drag limitations of towing bulky gear in the water, which allows faster area search. It also lets a helicopter image an entire ocean area and move on without stopping to recover equipment.
The initial contract awarded a total of $45.5 million for a low-rate initial production (LRIP) of three AN/AES-1 ALMDS pods. The contract calls for options totaling $79 million for an additional six LRIP pods, one full-rate production lot of six pods, two training systems and integrated logistics support for the system.
ALMDS has been designated as a fast track SBIR/STTR R&D program. ALMDS will join Raytheon’s new AQS-20A towed sonar on the new H-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, and the Navy plans to buy 57 systems by 2011. The overall program is valued at approximately $200 million.
ALMDS is also an important element of the mine-warfare mission package designed as a modular option for the littoral combat ship (LCS). The ship will host five airborne mine-countermeasures systems, developed to provide aircraft carrier battle-strike groups and expeditionary-strike groups with full-spectrum organic mine-hunting and reconnaissance capability. With a capacity for only two H-60S helicopters in its hangar, the LCS cannot carry 5 aircraft itself – and the aircraft it does carry may well be RQ-8B Fire Scout helicopter UAVs. Whether the Fire Scout’s upgrades will give them the requisite payload capacity to mount the AES-1 ALMDS remains to be seen; regardless, the LCS will be equipped with excellent data connections, and it will be possible for other H-60S helicopters to use it as a base.
The ALMDS program is managed by the Program Executive Office, Littoral and Mine Warfare, Mine Warfare Program Office, PMS-495. For more on cutting-edge developments in minehunting technologies, see “New Mine Countermeasure System Designs Are Hitting the Water” in the August 2005 issue of Seapower Magazine.
Work will be performed in at Northrop Grumman’s Airborne Ground Surveillance & Battle Management Systems facility in Melbourne, FL (75%), and in Tucson, AZ (25%), and is expected to be complete by February 2010. Melbourne is the home of two additional Navy mine-countermeasures programs and a U.S. Army counter-mine/reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition program.
This contract was not competitively procured by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City, FL (N61331-05-C-0049).
Jan 29/07: Northrop Grumman issues a release highlighting their delivery of the first ALMDS pod to the US Navy.