In March this year BAE Systems launched its new autonomous unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) Talisman. The programme, which is fully funded by BAE Systems, started in late 2004 and was designed to meet the need for a modular multi-role UUV capable of a wide range of maritime littoral operations.

Its purpose was to find a safe and inexpensive system capable of tackling threats posed by mines and subsurface IEDs in coastal waters, estuarine, riverine and port environments.

Talisman can be operated fully autonomously on pre-programmed missions but with capability for the operator to intervene throughout the mission should the operational situation change. The operator is able to react to communication with the vehicle and systems via RF or Iridium SatCom while the vehicle is surfaced and via acoustic communications systems when the vehicle is underwater.

Andy Tonge, Talisman project manager at BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte), said: “The main advantages of using a UUV for mine hunting is that it removes personnel from the danger zone and also means operations can take place using existing naval assets without the need to acquire expensive dedicated mine countermeasures vessels.

“Different customers will have different needs. Some will use the system in the conventional mine warfare, others will use it for hunting underwater IEDs. We are looking to develop a family of vehicles using the same core systems and the same core architecture for data fusion and handling to communicate that data offboard. You can then wrap that up however is appropriate for the payload you are carrying and task you are performing.

“The system employs an open architecture that enables us integrate a variety of systems, including commercial off-the-shelf products. We chose SeaBat 7123 for the forward-looking sonar because the basic requirement for mine warfare is the ability to detect something at long range and be capable of clearing a good width of swath at the same time.

“The SeaBat 7123 is quite large for mounting a UUV but the Talisman can cope with that. However it does give a very considerable performance and I believe it is the only off-the-shelf system with that kind of capability at the moment.

“What we are looking for is partnerships with other parts of industry so we can share risk and share benefit with a common goal. This approach enables us to offer customers benefits in price and performance. RESON has a number of systems, all with a common core and a common architecture that are easy to integrate with our systems. So there is a commonality of approach, us with the platform, RESON with the systems.”

Thomas Meurling, of RESON, said: “As far as we are aware, this is the first time a dedicated mine hunter sonar has been fitted to a UUV and we are very pleased the SeaBat 7123 has been selected for this exciting project.”