Issue Date: September 27, 2004
Momsen debuts mini mine hunter
By Christopher P. Cavas
Special to the Times
The destroyer Momsen looks like any other greyhound of the sea — sleek and fast, armed with missiles and guns, and equipped with the latest version of the Aegis combat radar system. But in one respect, the Momsen is unlike any other destroyer now in service.
It is a mine hunter.
Momsen is the first of six IIA Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that will carry a 6-ton remote mine-hunting vehicle, part of the AN/WLD-1(V)1 mine reconnaissance system.
The gear will allow the Momsen to jump ahead of a strike group, look for and locate mines, and warn other ships. It’s part of the Navy’s effort to lessen its strike groups’ dependence on traditional slow, short-range mine-sweepers.
Having the system is “very exciting,” said Lt. Antonio Martinez, weapons officer of the new warship. “It’s something combatants usually don’t deal with. We’re basically an air defense platform. The undersea platform brings a lot to the table.”
“This is an extra, advanced-deployed sensor that gives us more information to really minimize risk in our operations,” said Capt. Barry Dagnall, head of the Navy’s mine warfare branch in the Pentagon. “The idea is to have a sensor that’s out there, operating with the fleet, that can prep the battle space, learn more about it.”
The mine-hunting vehicle is not intended to destroy mines. Rather, it will use a smaller, tethered AN/AQS-20 sonar to detect mines and relay their location to other ships.
Later, an explosive ordnance disposal team or a minesweeper can move in.
Commissioned Aug. 28 at Panama City, Fla., Momsen is actually the second ship fitted with the mine-hunting system, but it is carrying and testing the only remote vehicle now in service.
The Pinckney, commissioned in May, and the four destroyers coming into service behind Momsen also will carry the system. There are no plans to extend the outfit to other Arleigh Burkes.
Momsen’s mine-hunting system is different from those aboard current minesweepers, which operate tethered vehicles weighing about 500 pounds.
The 23-foot, 12,850-pound semi-submersible remote vehicle is powered by a diesel engine. It can be placed in the water in about 45 minutes, and can be programmed to operate independent of the destroyer.
Fitted with sonar, transmitters and a video camera, its hull travels just below the water’s surface, but its mast remains above water to carry a second video camera, more transmitters and the diesel’s air intake.
If a “minelike object” is detected, electro-optic sensors aboard the tethered sonar vehicle send images to the destroyer, which puts them on the Navy’s Global Command and Control System-Maritime network.
The tethered vehicle can carry either a laser-line scan that creates an image or a volume-search sonar which puts out a doughnut or angel-like pattern, looking for moored contacts. One module carriers a laser line scan, which creates an image.
Each destroyer is fitted to carry two of the small sonar vehicles.
“Putting the system on a combatant is a good thing for the [surface warfare] community, forcing us to become more involved,” Martinez said.
I wish there was a pic. This thing sounds pretty cool.