HTii provided data collection, analysis and reporting for the first combined test of the Navy’s new airborne mine detection and destruction mission package, conducted September 23-October 24 from the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Independence off San Diego.
During the test, Air Test and Evaluation Squadron One (VX-1) operated the AN/AES-1 Airborne Mine Laser Detection System (ALMDS) for the first time with the AN/ASQ-235 Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS). An MH-60S took off from the Independence flight deck to search for mines with the ALMDS, then went back to the ship and picked up the AMNS to destroy the mines that were found.
“This was the first complete detect-to-engage sequence at sea for the two systems,” said Lieut. Adam Craig, Operational Test Director, of the VX-1 squadron based at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. “It’s easy to forget about the larger picture when we test a single system of the mission package at VX-1, but our test in San Diego truly allowed all of the parts, pieces and people to come together and create the Navy’s future of mine warfare.”
TIMS data capture
The HTii Test Information Management System (TIMS) was used to provide centralized data collection for all test activities. For the daily test event debrief, TIMS recorded, stored and analyzed data for all recordable flight conditions such as speed, altitude, range, pitch, azimuth, takeoff time and landing time, as well as problems and maintenance actions.
TIMS also imported what’s known as “suitability” data – reliability, maintainability and availability data from maintenance action forms – to assist in analysis and reporting. And for risk or deficiency reporting, TIMS incorporated suitability data and a limited amount of “effectiveness” data as well, that is, data produced by the system under test. In this case, that was the mine detection-neutralization package.
The detection-neutralization operation takes place in stages – one airborne, the other under the surface. In the first stage, the MH-60S flies its search pattern with the ALMDS detector stowed under the port pylon in a standard Bomb Rack Unit 14 (BRU14). The ALMDS scans the upper sea layer with a laser to locate potential mines, either floating on the surface or tethered below it.
The ALMDS projects a pulsed, wide, blue-green laser beam, which penetrates water much better than other wavelengths. The motion of the aircraft directs the fixed laser beam across the water to generate 3-D image data, eliminating the need for complex scanning mechanisms.
When the laser beam strikes a subsurface object and is reflected back to the detector on the MH-60S, it provides data on the potential target’s position, size and other characteristics. The data is telemetered back to the ship for analysis to distinguish potential mines from harmless flotsam, fish and marine mammals.
ALMDS is capable of day or night operations without stopping to stream out data or recover equipment, and without towing any equipment in the water. ALMDS also provides accurate target geolocation to support follow-on neutralization of the detected mines.
For the second stage of the test event, the helicopter returned to the ship, unloaded the ALMDS detector and replaced it with the AMNS neutralizer vehicle, which carries four armor-piercing “neutralization” devices. The neutralizer’s electronics and sensors also provide a fiber-optic data link, track responder and echo sounder.
The MH-60S lowered the AMNS into the water where the potential mines were detected, and a sensor operator on the aircraft guided the neutralizer to the target location using its sonar.
Once the target was identified and confirmed with an onboard video camera, the operator signaled the AMNS neutralizer vehicle to detonate its armor-piercing warhead and blow up the mine.