They hide under the ocean’s surface, frequently buried on the sea bottom, limiting adversaries access to combat-critical streams. They may detonate upon impact or by sensor-based proximity detonation. They are shallow- and deep-water open ocean weapons that are affordable, readily accessible, and increasingly used in crucial seas by both rogue states and big powers.

Sea mines, a persistent and long-standing military danger to the US Navy’s surface ships, submarines, and small boats, are becoming considerably more sophisticated as new sensor and explosives technologies become available.

With this in mind, the US Navy continues to advance a “man out of the minefield” policy and develop developing technology capable of detecting, tracking, and destroying mines without endangering sailors. The Navy is rapidly developing what developers refer to as “single path detection” in order to carry out this kind of operation, according to Capt. Danielle George, Mine Warfare Program Manager.

“It is when you take a single platform out on a single mission and identify and neutralize a mine all in one shot,” George noted during his Jan. 16 presentation at the Surface Navy Association’s Annual Symposium in Arlington, Va.

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George noted that last summer, then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson oversaw an evaluation of numerous evolving mine-warfare ideas aimed at demonstrating single route mine identification and neutralization.

Typically, a mine detecting sonar or marine sensor is just responsible for detection, clearing the way for a different system or platform to “destroy” the mine. Now, developing algorithms and networking technologies provide significant autonomy by combining detection and neutralization into a single system.

The Navy demonstrated an innovative, layered system comprised of a forward-looking AQS 20C sonar system, a networking buoy, and a Barracuda sensor-explosive. According to Raytheon engineers, the integrated system incorporates sonar, a radio frequency antenna, an acoustic modem, an electro-optical/infrared camera, and a highly specialized explosive. According to Andy Wilde, Raytheon’s Director of Strategy and Business Development for Undersea Capabilities, the multi-pronged approach is predicated on the recent integration of a high-tech forward-looking sonar known as AQS 20. Raytheon engineers are working rapidly to accommodate rising Navy demand for their long-range sensing technology, having just delivered their tenth AQS 20 sonar to the Navy.

Wilde told Warrior that the detection-neutralization “single-path” procedure starts with the AQS 20 being integrated onto a Navy Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle before to being dropped into the ocean.

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