The British Royal Navy is currently testing the first unmanned minesweeping system to be specifically designed to deal with modern mines along sea lanes.
The autonomous system comprises an 11m-long ‘mother ship’, known as Hussar, followed by a series of small ‘coil auxiliary boats’ (CABs) that replicate ship signatures in order to detonate the latest underwater explosive devices, which could potentially enable the safe and effective clearing of minefields.
Atlas Elektronik UK carried out the development and construction of the Hussar unmanned system.
The solution was delivered to the Royal Navy in May after successfully completing four months of initial trials and evaluations.
The latest tests are set to be carried out by the navy’s Portsmouth-based Maritime Autonomous Systems Trials Team (MASTT).
MASTT official Royal Navy lieutenant commander Dave Stanbury said: “It’s a very basic system, which performs outstandingly when out on the water.
“It’s easy to understand, easy to train operators. Above all, it takes the sailor out of danger; you’d no longer have to send a minehunter into a minefield.”
The Royal Navy’s specialist assessment team has been responsible for evaluating, testing and determining how the autonomous minesweeper would be deployed in action.
Royal Navy commander Mark Atkinson said: “In the digital age, magnetic minesweeping was becoming obsolete; it goes back to World War Two.
“It could not deal with modern, digital mines.”
Atkinson added: “I’m a huge advocate of this form of sweeping. Everything so far has pointed to the system doing what we expect it to.
“When you see what it can do, it sells itself.”
Approximately £13m has been invested in the unmanned minesweeping system to date.
The Royal Navy intends to invest in a total of four Hussar motor boats, along with their associated equipment and support systems, if the trials on the unmanned system prove successful.