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Royal Navy takes delivery of new autonomous mine counter measures vessel

Royal Navy Motor Boat Harrier
Photo: Royal Navy

The Royal Navy has taken delivery of a new autonomous mine counter measures vessel as the boat arrived at Faslane.

RNMB Harrier will be operated by Project Wilton, a recently formed maritime autonomous systems (MAS) team based out of HM Naval Base Clyde.

Part of the first mine counter measures squadron (MCM1), the Wilton team are charged with introducing this technology into the Royal Navy.

RNMB Harrier arrived on the Clyde on Friday, August 14, and was put to the test in a week-long familiarization and training package delivered by prime contractor, ATLAS Elektronik UK (AEUK).

The Wilton team and the Royal Navy took formal ownership of this capability on August 21 and will now work towards initial operating capability (IOC) in September.

“We have been working closely with both Defence Equipment and Support and our industry partners to realize this emergent capability for a considerable time,” Lieutenant Commander Ross Balfour, officer in charge of Project Wilton, said.

“It is very exciting to see the equipment and Harrier in the flesh and allow my highly-trained team to get their hands on the kit and start to develop the potential of this highly capable system.”

RNMB Harrier can operate in three modes – manually, remotely and autonomously – giving a range of flexibility to deploy either towed side scan sonar systems or autonomous underwater vehicles.

The new system offers greater flexibility to deploy around the world where it can be quickly set-up for survey and mine hunting operations. Primarily a capability demonstrator, Project Wilton and RNMB Harrier are supporting the development of maritime autonomous systems.

Photo: Royal Navy

RNMB Harrier has joined her sister-vessel RNMB Hazard which has been in operation for around 18-months, initially being put through its paces by the Royal Navy’s maritime autonomous systems trials team (MASTT) prior to transferring to Project Wilton.

The third and final Wilton boat, RNMB Hebe, is due to arrive in Spring next year. At 15 metres she is larger than the 11-meter-long Harrier and contains a portable operations centre afloat that allows her to control Harrier and Hazard while also co-ordinating autonomous operations.

By 2022 the system is expected to become a fully operational mine counter measures system capable of removing bottom objects and neutralizing explosive ordnance.