A consortium of 21 European companies led by Naval Group Belgium have been given the green light to pursue a sovereign European mine countermeasure (MCM) solution.

Building on results from the two-year-long Mine Risk Clearance for Europe (MIRICLE) programme, which launched in December 2021 and concluded at the end of 2023, the Extended MCM (E-MCM) project has been approved by the EU Commission in the frame of a 2023 call of the European Defence Fund.

E-MCM will begin in Q4 2024 and take place over the next three years.

What is E-MCM?

The renewed programme aims to design, prototype and demonstrate an MCM system-of-systems network.

Within this web of systems, a European naval force will deploy uncrewed and autonomous toolboxes, platforms and decision-support tools – all powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

Naval Group suggests that E-MCM aims at “closing development gaps” for capabilities within a new generation toolbox – or what Naval Group has dubbed “toolbox 2.0” – which delivers faster, safer and more resilient MCM operations.

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In 2021, GlobalData defence analysis asserted that this area “is undergoing a major transition from traditional mine-hunting to an uncrewed and autonomous future.

“Uncrewed vehicles offer an optimum solution to this threat. They provide strategic and operational advantages to navies and security forces by reducing the maintenance and operating costs and human risk significantly, as well as by extending the reach of information, surveillance, and reconnaissance collection.”

European ambitions are fixed on autonomous MCM within a wider network of systems coordinating operations together. This unqiue concept for an MCM ecosystem is an ambitious project that fits the bill for future maritime MCM.

Belgian and Dutch MCMVs

MIRICLE, and now E-MCM, will be pursued in conjunction with the development of new vessels (MCMVs).

These are next-generation minehunters being offered by Belgium Naval & Robotics to enhance the MCM capabilities of both the Belgian Navy and the Royal Netherlands Navy. The new MCMVs will replace the Tripartite-class minehunters operated by both countries for the past 30 years. The second of 12 MCMVs was launched by Naval Group in late October 2023.

The MCMVs are suitable for a range of missions, including identification and destruction of naval mines, anti-piracy, anti-terrorism, maritime traffic interception as well as territorial waters surveillance.