UK Royal Navy has announced the arrival of an uncrewed boat that can track and identify underwater threats in the Gulf, marking the UK’s commitment to the Middle East.
The uncrewed boat, called Royal Navy Motor Boat (RNMB) Harrier, forms part of the decade-long programme for replacing the navy’s existing fleet of mine countermeasure vessels, and its time in the Gulf will serve as the basis for future autonomous gear.
This 11m-uncrewed mine hunter, during its deployment, will work with the host ship RFA Cardigan Bay to perform a series of demonstrations and trials to showcase its capability to operate in the harsh and demanding weather conditions of the Gulf region.
It can operate both autonomously, wherein it is pre-programmed to undertake a mission or even remotely from a vessel or shore-based remote-control centre.
Harrier tows a side-scan sonar behind it to scout for mines on the seabed and accordingly alerts units operating ashore or at sea.
In the future, the boat will also work with underwater vehicles that are remotely operated, as well as a mine sweeping system.
The tests will be crucial in monitoring how the Atlas remote-controlled mine sweeper boat fares in hot climates after proving its capability in UK waters.
Harrier will be integrated with Royal Navy personnel and units operating in the Gulf region, mine countermeasure battlestaff, the UK’s Naval Support Facility in Bahrain and countries that work with the UK in safeguarding shipping and navigation freedom.
Mine Threat Exploitation Group’s Mission System Team One commanding officer and lieutenant commander Mark Shaw said: “We are excited to be involved in the Mine Hunting Capability programme, which will transition the Royal Navy from a ship-based mine countermeasures (MCM) capability to maritime autonomous off-board systems.”
Shaw further added: “This is the future of Royal Navy MCM, and we are proud to be at the leading edge of its delivery. The deployment of this cutting edge technology to the Gulf signals the UK’s commitment to the region and freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”
In June 2021, Royal Navy received the delivery of the third and final autonomous minehunting boat called RNMB Hebe, after the delivery of RNMB Harrier and RNMB Hazard.