UK, France to sign autonomous minehunting production contract

Harry Lye 3 November 2020 (Last Updated November 3rd, 2020 16:22)

The UK and France will sign a production contract for the joint Maritime Mine Counter Measure (MMCM) project this month.

UK, France to sign autonomous minehunting production contract
Infographic shows Halcyon, a small Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) – just 12 metres long and 3.5 metres wide – and the sonar it tows is Thales’s Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar (T-SAS). Image: Royal Navy/ Crown Copyright.

The UK and France will sign a production contract for the joint Maritime Mine Counter Measure (MMCM) project this month.

The UK and France have been working together on the project to develop an autonomous minehunting capability. Recent trials off the coast of the UK and France proved the ability of the system to detect sea mines.

Following the production contract, The Royal Navy and Marine Nationale will achieve operational capability in 2022.

MMCM is a ‘system of systems’ including uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), uncrewed underwater vessels (UUVs), sensors, command and control systems, and mine neutralisation systems.

The UK and France revealed news of the impending production contract in a joint declaration by UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and his French counterpart Florence Parly, published by the two countries yesterday on the 10th anniversary of the Lancaster House Treaty’s signing.

The joint declaration reads: “Our joint Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) project has made significant progress in developing a world-leading autonomous mine hunting system. Sea trials conducted on the French and British coasts in 2020 have proved the autonomous vehicles’ capability to hunt sea mines.

“The production contract will be signed later in November and the first operational capabilities will be delivered in 2022.”

Trials of the system are ongoing and expected to wrap up by the end of the year. Results of the trials will inform acceptance of the final MMCM demonstrator.

The ongoing MMCM project is also being used by the UK to inform its Mine Counter Measures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) programme, with the evaluation and trials of the former helping to inform future investment plans for the latter.

The Royal Navy is also using MMCM to support its wider adoption of autonomous systems.