Countering the Mine Threat

Navy awards Lockheed Martin contract to upgrade sea and air mine countermeasures



Lockheed Martin will upgrade the U.S. Fifth Fleet’s existing mine countermeasure equipment by integrating the surface and airborne SeaFox systems onboard three Avenger class mine countermeasure ships, such as the one pictured above.

Just as improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have taken a toll on ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, strategically deployed underwater mines can potentially wreak havoc on naval and commercial ships and their crews as well.

To counter that threat, the U.S. Navy is turning to Lockheed Martin to upgrade its existing mine countermeasure equipment for the U.S. Fifth Fleet. The Navy recently awarded Lockheed Martin a $45.6 million contract to adapt the Atlas SeaFox neutralizer currently deployed on MH-53 helicopters for use on its mine countermeasure ships.

Lockheed Martin designed, developed and produced the Surface Mine Neutralization System-SeaFox (SMNS-SF) and the Airborne Mine Neutralization System-SeaFox (AMNS-SF). The Navy turned to Lockheed Martin to upgrade and integrate Atlas’ Seafox neutralizer onto host platforms in the time required to meet an urgent operational need in areas such as the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.

Over the next year, Lockheed Martin will replace the ship’s existing mine neutralization system by integrating the SeaFox onboard three Avenger class mine countermeasure ships, and it will upgrade the ship’s current launch and recovery system and mine operator control console. The contract also calls for upgrading and overhauling six existing AN/AQS-232 AMNS-SF systems, which are roll on/roll off components for the MH-53 helicopters.

“Lockheed Martin has partnered with the Navy for more than a decade to develop and deliver the airborne mine neutralization capability currently employed on the MH-53 helicopter,” said Richard Holmberg, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for mission and unmanned systems. “This contract enables us to provide the Navy with a proven solution for three ships, improve the fielded airborne mine neutralization capability and increase the commonality between ships and aircraft.”

The SeaFox neutralizer is an expendable remotely operated system deployed from the MH-53 or the MCM-1 class ships.  The system operates autonomously to neutralize underwater moored and bottom mines by locating them using an onboard homing sonar, identifying them with an onboard camera and destroying them with a built-in charge.

The new shipboard system includes a control console, neutralizer tracking, maintenance space, magazine update and neutralizer over-boarding equipment that places the round into the magazine or into the water. In an effort to provide an affordable and common solution under the quick timeline, much of the equipment used for the installation is the same as that used by the airborne system.

Posted April 10, 2012