After WWII, minesweeping took to the air, at least in the U.S. Navy, and by the 1960s helicopter-borne sleds were the name in the game (see RH-3A’s on USS Ozark in a past Warship Wednesday for more on that).
Current tech involves the MH-53E Sea Dragon towing the Mk-107 sled. The thing is, the Navy just has two dozen ‘Dragons left and they are scheduled to be retired by 2025.
So what is the replacement plan for the ship-based Airborne Mine Counter Measure (AMCM) mission?
Last month the folks at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, dunked a UUV into the drink via chopper.
They used a “Dragon Master” MH-60S helicopter of HX-21 to drop a MK18 Mod 2 Kingfish underwater unmanned vehicle into the drink. Kingfish has been around since 2011 and deployed in 2013 with the 5th Fleet for tests. The 600-pound, 12-foot long UUV is outfitted with several different
The torpedo-shaped 600-pound, 12-foot long UUV is outfitted with several different pencil and side-scan sonars attuned to mine hunting but can also be used for route recon, debris field inspection, salvage work and just about any other underwater tasking. Based on the Kongsberg Maritime Hydroid REMUS 600, it can remain on task for 24-hours before needing a recharge and dive to 2,000-feet.
The test seemed to go well, by all accounts.
“Once in a hover, the crewman streamed the mass model and adapter into the water and initiated release of the MK18 MOD2 mass model. Once the MK18 MOD2 mass model was released from the UUV adapter the crewman retrieved the adapter back to storage position on the side of the aircraft,” said NSWC PCD MH-60S Integration Lead Tim Currie. “The total operation, from liftoff to touchdown, took 18 minutes. The release of the mass model and recovery of the UUV adapter took approximately three minutes.”
Now they just have to test how to get it back out.