The MOD and its French counterpart have committed more than £17m to design a new system to improve how the Royal Navy tackles underwater mines.
A contract has been signed today by the international organisation OCCAR on behalf of the MOD and France’s Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA), with a Thales–led consortium that includes BAE Systems.
The project will involve the design of a Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) demonstrator, which includes an unmanned surface vehicle with sonar and an unmanned underwater vehicle. It will provide a demonstration of systems and equipment to defeat sea-mines using remotely-operated, unmanned marine vehicles and sensors.
Using unmanned systems would allow a new approach to sea-mine clearance, meaning Royal Navy vessels could operate further from the minefield. This would allow the Navy to respond more safely and efficiently to the threat of sea-mines in the long-term and operate more effectively around the world.
Defence Minister Philip Dunne MP said:
The development of unmanned maritime systems is a new and exciting area for both the UK and France. By working together and drawing on a common vision for unmanned underwater systems, we will be able to explore the military, technological, financial and skills benefits that developing this maritime capability could bring.
This work also feeds into the Government’s Defence Growth Partnership, aimed at ensuring the UK’s Defence Sector grows in the future by strengthening our global centre of excellence and inspiring the next generation.
The MOD’s Chief of Materiel, Bernard Gray, said:
Both the UK and France recognise the potential for unmanned vehicles to counter the threat of sea-mines. Both nations are committed to developing a prototype for the Maritime Mine Counter Measures demonstrator to test the feasibility of using remotely operated, unmanned marine vehicles and sensors to detect and dispose of this threat to our maritime capability.
Over an 18 month period related studies, design and definition of the system will be carried out, which will provide key inputs into the UK Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability programme.
The Délégué général pour l’armement Laurent Collet-Billon added:
The maritime mine warfare MMCM project occupies a significant place within the preparation of future defence systems for British and French armed forces. It demonstrates the strong aspiration of our two countries to innovate in order to keep ahead in underwater warfare from a technological, industrial and operational perspective.
This programme is complementary to the Defence Growth Partnership which aims to foster greater collaboration and innovation across the defence sector with the goal of bringing new products and services to the market. This work specifically fits in with the broader maritime mission systems context and the development of UK Industry’s Maritime Intelligent Systems export offerings.