Raytheon to Demo Mine Hunting Sonar for Royal Navy
WASHINGTON: Raytheon is planning to demonstrate its mine hunting sonar off the coast of Scotland later this year, during a mine countermeasures exercise hosted by the UK’s Royal Navy.
The company’s demonstration, which will take place in October, is expected to continue into next year as part of an ongoing effort from the UK known as the Wilton Industry Show and Experiment for Mine Countermeasures, also dubbed WISE-X.
Raytheon UK will demonstrate the AQS-20C mine hunting sonar using an autonomous vessel from Atlas Electronics, company executives told Breaking Defense on Monday as part of the DSEI conference being held in London this week.
“This is all a part of the bigger picture to prove to the [Royal] Navy that there are alternatives out there which can meet their full requirements, and that we can actually go forward, hopefully, in a competition in about four or five years’ time to provide equipment for the Royal Navy to do their mine hunting,” said Geraint Evans, a business development executive for Raytheon’s UK branch.
The AQS-20C, a towed side-scan sonar, is already being bought by the US Navy for the Littoral Combat Ship’s mine countermeasures mission package. Raytheon has delivered 10 sonars to the Navy to date and is on contract to upgrade 10 legacy systems to the latest configuration, Frank Linkous, a Raytheon executive for undersea warfare systems, said during the same interview.
The set-up Raytheon described for the demonstration in Scotland — their towed sonar attached to an unmanned surface vessel — is similar to the arrangement the US Navy is preparing to deploy as part of the LCS mission package. The US program, dubbed the Unmanned Influence Sweep System, combines Raytheon’s sonar and an unmanned surface vessel, dubbed the MCM USV. The service also plans to integrate a mine neutralization payload called Barracuda.
The Navy plans to conduct a full and open competition this year for the contract to produce the MCM USV, according to the service’s budget justification documents. A full and open competition to produce the mine hunting payload for MCM USV is planned for fiscal year 2022.
While the demonstration represents a very nascent stage in the Royal Navy’s procurement process for a new mine hunting capability, the prospects of the US and UK buying the same sonar has benefits for both countries. The UK stands to benefit from the testing and development already done by Raytheon and Naval Sea Systems Command to date. For the US, having an allied partner procure the system could help reduce modernization and future procurement costs if both countries decide to advance the technology.