The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force has purchased four laser mine detection systems for use on its AgustaWestland MCH101 helicopters.

This is the first direct commercial sale of the Airborne Laser Mine Detection System (ALMDS), said Northrop Grumman, which produces the equipment.

"[The] ALMDS will enable the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force to cover significant distances at the speed of flight using its MCH101 aircraft," said Donna Carson-Jelley, ALMDS programme manager for the US Navy. "This technology dramatically compresses the time between mine detection and neutralisation," she added.


© Northrop Grumman

The system uses "streak tube imaging light detection and ranging [LIDAR] to detect, classify and localise near-surface moored sea mines", said Northrop.

"With high area coverage rate capability, the system transmits a fan-shaped beam of laser light to establish its swath width and then relies on the forward motion of the helicopter to sweep the light over the water in a 'push broom' manner," the company added.

Four cameras cover the same swath illuminated by the laser fan beam, according to Northrop. As images are received, an automatic target recognition algorithm picks out potential mine-like objects and stores their images for classification by shipboard Fleet operators, using computer-aided post-mission analysis tools.

The US company will work with Japanese firms Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which manufactured Japan's MCH101s, and Fujitsu to deliver and install the system.

Source: Flight International