The UK and French defence departments have jointly awarded engineering firm, Thales, with a contract to develop an autonomous system for the detection and neutralisation of sea mines and underwater improvised explosive devices (UWIEDs).
Thales will work in collaboration with BAE Systems and partners in France (ECA Group) and in the UK (ASV, Wood & Douglas, SAAB).
The Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) contract includes three stages, starting with a first phase for design and is expected to deliver an autonomous, remotely operated mine countermeasure solution.
The next stages, which are subject to contract options, include the manufacture and experimentation of the future mine countermeasure capabilities by both France and the UK.
Each system will comprise a USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) equipped with an autonomous navigation system, an obstacle detection and avoidance sonar, a threat identification and neutralisation capability based on ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), a T-SAS (Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar) and AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles).
The geolocated AUVs will use the latest-generation synthetic aperture sonar SAMDIS with multi-aspect functionality for improved classification. They will perform their tasks autonomously with control from a host ship or shore-based station via high-data-rate communication links.
“Thales has world-class expertise in mine countermeasures, having equipped more than half of the world’s in-service fleet of minehunters,”
said Patrice Caine, chairman and CEO of Thales.
“We are proud to be part of this strategically important programme, which will provide France and the United Kingdom with key capabilities to support maritime security and the projection of amphibious forces.”