A laser-imaging, helicopter-borne gun system designed by Northrop Grumman for the US Navy to destroy mines at sea exceeded expectations the first time it was fired at underwater targets.

The rapid airborne mine clearance system (RAMICS) hung from a 50-storey tower fired eight shots at a submerged target of which seven hit in a tightly grouped pattern. The statistical expectation was one hit only.

Vice president of maritime and tactical systems for Northrop Grumman, Bob Klein said that shooting a submerged mine from altitude on a moving platform was an difficult algorithmic and hydrodynamic challenge.

“RAMICS’s test performance was a major accomplishment that proves it can hit submerged mines from tactically significant distances, and do it all with better than expected accuracy,” Klein said.

The RAMICS gun is a 30mm mk44 Bushmaster II cannon manufactured by ATK Armament Systems, which fires a supercavitating round. Unlike typical projectiles that markedly slow when they hit water, a supercavitating round has a unique configuration that allows it to maintain its velocity when it enters the water.

RAMICS is designed to get target data from another Northrop Grumman mine countermeasures product: the airborne laser mine detection system (ALMDS), which is still in low-rate initial production.

“The goal with all our products is to find mines quickly, locate them accurately, and, at sea with RAMICS, destroy them without endangering divers so that our forces can have assured access to their targets and assured success in their missions,” Klein said.

Northrop Grumman is also developing the coastal battlefield reconnaissance and analysis (COBRA) system for the marine corps and airborne surveillance, target acquisition and minefield detection system (ASTAMIDS) for the army.

By Daniel Garrun.