Home Europe Royal Navy commissions final Project Wilton autonomous minehunter

Royal Navy commissions final Project Wilton autonomous minehunter

RNMB Hebe autonomous minehunter
Photo: Royal Navy

The Royal Navy’s third and final autonomous minehunting boat has started service at Clyde Naval Base.

RNMB Hebe, named after the ancient Greek goddess of youth, has now joined sister vessels Harrier and Hazard as part of the Royal Navy’s crewless minehunting program Project Wilton.

The vessel was delivered to Clyde after being handed over to the Royal Navy by Atlas Elektronik UK in September 2020.

Hebe, four meters longer than her sisters and with more technology on board, is able to work in isolation on operations but also integrated with existing equipment.

Together, the three vessels are key components in the future of minehunting operations for the navy.

The boats are capable of working in different configurations – manually, remotely or autonomously – to detect and classify mines and maritime ordnance. The Project Wilton team are currently undertaking comprehensive trials and a capability development program to ensure they are ready to deliver route survey operations.

Lieutenant Commander Ross Balfour, officer-in-charge of Project Wilton, said: “RNMB Hebe is the final piece in the jigsaw of Project Wilton’s maritime capability.

“The vessel is a 15-metre Vahana boat, four-meters longer than the other Project Wilton vessels. AEUK have made significant upgrades resulting in Hebe having an organic command, control and communications capability which allows the autonomous control of her sister vessel Harrier.

“She also has the ability to operate towed side-scan sonar to map the seabed.

“Hebe has fantastic potential and we are working diligently to integrate her impressive capabilities with our existing equipment.”

From the relative comfort of Hebe, mine countermeasures experts can coordinate and control the boats or monitor autonomous offboard sensors. They also have the option of controlling the vessels from a land-based remote-control center.

The entire system is highly flexible and rapidly deployable, capable of being loaded onto trucks and transported to wherever it is required to conduct survey and mine hunting operations.

“The Wilton team are excited and enthused by the challenge this new capability represents,” Lt Cdr Balfour added.

“We are operating at the forefront of technological development and paving the way for follow-on autonomous mine countermeasures capabilities currently in development.

“Riding this bow wave of change means the pace of development is high, requiring us to ‘learn by doing’ and constantly questioning the accepted norms. I am certain that my team of highly trained mine warfare experts can meet these challenges and deliver cutting-edge operational capability from this equipment.”