Common Platform, Uncommon Performance
The U.S. Navy’s standard for mine hunting, the AN/AQS-20A is an advanced helicopter and subsurface, towed, minehunting sonar system that has been designated as the common mine-hunting sonar for the MH-60S helicopters and the AN/WLD-1 remote minehunting platform.
The AN/AQS-20A incorporates five separate sonars in a compact, lightweight and hydro-dynamically stable towed body. It uses state-of-the-art imaging sonars, signal processing and computer algorithms to provide real-time, computer-aided detection and classification against the full spectrum of threat mines. The AN/AQS-20A automatically localizes mine-like objects and provides the operator with a visual image and a contact data list. All mission data is recorded for post-mission analysis.
Reducing Risk Through Operations Consolidation, Agility
The AN/AQS-20A’s computer processing power and advanced signal processing, coupled with its portability, reduces the amount of time required to search an area while significantly increasing search-rate agility. By reducing the size of the platform and the number of crew required to deploy the system, the AN/AQS-20A safely and efficiently consolidates expansive mine-sweeping operations that previously required a large warfare ship manned by more than 80 crew members.
This low-risk approach gives the fleet an organic mine countermeasures capability in the near term that meets all Navy requirements. The AN/AQS-20A maximizes platform integration flexibility on a variety of air, surface or subsurface platforms. One towed body satisfies the requirements of three platforms through common hardware, software and interfaces; common integrated logistics support; and modular operational configurations. The AN/AQS-20A has been extensively tested and operated from unmanned, underwater vehicles such as the AN/WLD-1 and could be integrated into future unmanned surface vehicles.
The combination of sidescan, forward-looking and gapfiller sonars enables the AN/AQS-20A to detect and classify mine-like objects from the seafloor to the near surface in a single pass. The system also has an electrooptics identification capability that delivers high-definition images of bottom mines using Streak Tube Imaging Laser (STIL) technology. The STIL technology provides the operator with both range and contrast data that combines to form a 3-D image during post-mission analysis to aid in mine identification. The AN/AQS-20A is the only system with this capability.
Four modes of operation are provided:
- Single Pass Shallow (SPS) Mode — Bottom and moored mine coverage in a single pass
- Single Pass Deep (SPD) Mode — Moored mine coverage in deep water
- Volume Mine (VOL) Mode — Volume mine coverage at four times the area search rate
- Identification (ID SPS) Mode — Bottom and moored mine coverage in a single pass plus optical imaging of bottom mines
These modes enable the AN/AQS-20A to give timely and accurate information on the location and position of mines so they can be quickly neutralized by minesweepers, and in the future, by the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS).