The UK Royal Navy has taken delivery of an unmanned mine-hunting demonstrator that has been developed under the joint Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) program between the UK and France.
The French Navy has also received an identical system.
Now in the hands of the Royal Navy, the system, which comprises an unmanned surface vessel, towed sonar and a portable operation center, is starting rigorous capability development trials.
The demonstrator was officially handed over to the Royal Navy in Plymouth on November 23 by staff from the defense ministry, Thales UK and OCCAR.
Sea mines constitute a growing threat and users of the system will be able to detect and neutralize mines from miles away, ensuring they can keep vital sea lanes open, with much-reduced risk to ships and the lives of sailors.
“I am incredibly proud of all of the dedicated team members, both current and previous, who have worked collaboratively with their counterparts from France, OCCAR and industry to make this happen,” Andy Lapsley, Mine Hunting Capability team leader at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), said
Commodore Steve Prest Royal Navy, Deputy Director Navy Acquisition, said: “It is exciting to see the first delivery to the Royal Navy from the MMCM project. The future of mine warfare is here: the Royal Navy’s mine hunting capability program is real; it’s happening; it’s delivering. We have a lot to learn about this transformational approach to mine warfare, but there is much, much more to come.”
The demonstrator will enter an operational evaluation alongside further MMCM systems being delivered through a £184M UK MOD investment agreed last year.
The bi-national MMCM program is the first step in the renewal of the operational concept for mine warfare in France and the United Kingdom, based on the use of unmanned systems which could potentially replace traditional minehunters.
This is a step change in capability, improving performances, productivity and removing the need to place members of the armed forces in harm’s way.
The subsystems developed for the program by Thales and its partners include unmanned surface vehicles (USV) to transport and connect solutions alongside the SAMDIS sonar to identify and classify threats. The sonar can be carried by autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) or by towed synthetic aperture multiviews (TSAM) vehicle operated from the USV. The entire system is remotely supervised by operators working from a portable operational center capable of controlling up to three systems in parallel at sea.