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The AQS-20A is an airborne sonar mine countermeasure detection system, developed by Raytheon. The system is utilized by the MH-60S and MH-53E helicopters and as part of the mission package for the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and some United States Navy Destroyers of the Arleigh Burke class. However, only one destroyer has been outfitted with the specific mission package as of April 2009. The AN/AQS-20 mine hunting sonar systems will be employed for deeper mine threats. The "Q-20", as it is commonly called, is an underwater towed body containing a high resolution, side-looking, multibeam sonar system used for minehunting along the ocean bottom. This rapidly deployable system provides real-time sonar images to operators in the aircraft to locate, classify, mark and record mine-like objects and underwater terrain features. The AQS-20 has an active, stabilized underwater vehicle, equipped with advanced multiple-beam side-looking sonar. The helicopter tows the underwater body by a small-diameter electromechanical cable while on board the helicopter, an operator can view the underwater image and identify objects on a video monitor while recording the data on S-VHS digital tapes for post mission analysis. Operators actually fly the device underwater, controlling the depth of the device the same way that an airplane controls its altitude. Once located, the exact coordinates of mine-like objects can be used by Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel to reacquire and neutralize the mine.

The US Navy has awarded a contract to NG to apply the system to future USVs,[1] The second and third units will be deployed to the 5th Fleet in early 2015.[2] In 2016, the Navy canceled the program after purchasing 10 systems; the 10 systems that had been purchased are slated to be competed against Textron Systems' Fleet-class unmanned surface vessel system and the Knifefish unmanned underwater vehicle by General Dynamics and Bluefin Robotics.[3]

MW Heli.jpg


Per the Joint Electronics Type Designation System (JETDS), the nomenclature AN/AQS-20A is derived this way:

Descriptor Meaning
AN Nomenclature has been derived from the JETDS
A Installed on a piloted aircraft
Q Sonar
S Used for Detecting, Range and Bearing, Search
20 Unique designator for this particular unit
A First variant on the base unit


  1. ^ "Navy Selects Northrop Grumman’s Sonar System for Minehunting USV."
  2. ^ Jean, Grace (14 October 2014). "USN, Northrop Grumman to deploy more mine-hunting USVs to the Gulf". IHS Jane's Defence Weekly. Retrieved 16 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Eckstein, Megan (March 24, 2016). "Navy's Remote Minehunting System Officially Canceled, Sonar May Live On". Archived from the original on March 25, 2016.