European helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland is developing a palletized airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) system for installation on the three-engine, fully marinized EH-101. “With over 300 types of mines that can be deployed from aircraft, surface vessels or submarines, the threat to shipping is growing and can be effectively countered by the AMCM EH-101,” claims the company, also pointing to its one-engine-inoperative safety, the ability to tow all current and future AMCM systems coupled with a long on-station towing endurance. The palletized system also allows rapid reconfiguration to a wide range of other roles.
The AMCM package comprises the operator console; winch assembly; carriage, deployment and recovery system; and submersible unit, which can all fit into the EH-101’s large cabin, with space to spare for additional seats and other equipment. Externally, the aircraft will be fitted with rear-view TV or mirrors to assist the pilot during towing operations.
The recovery of the towed body into the cabin through the rear ramp ensures that the EH-101 can deploy to the search area at maximum cruise speed of 150 knots. At 50-nm radius of action, the EH-101 can perform 2.5 hours towing with reserves, enabling large areas of sea to be cleared of mine threats.
The EH-101 is in service with the British Royal Navy and Italian Navy, and is soon to enter service with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF), which will configure some of the 14 aircraft ordered for AMCM operations. The JMSDF aircraft will be assembled in-country by Kawasaki Heavy Industries.