The French Navy plan to change its mine warfare strategy by overseeing a transition from its existing mine-hunters to deploying autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

Currently, the Navy has eight Tripartite-class mine countermeasure (MCM) vessels in active service; the flagship has just reached 40-years-old according to GlobalData intelligence.

Meanwhile, the service awaits an undetermined number of next-generation A18 AUVs, designed and developed by ECA Group, which France will commission in 2029.

An artist’s impression of the next-generation, mid-sized A18 AUV. Credit: ECA Group.

In the interim period, the service has resorted to test and evaluate the performance of its existing A27 vehicles in the port of Brest, Brittany, where the service will hone their operational skills and AUV tactics. The service first commissioned these legacy vehicles in 2012 and it will decommission them in 2026.

Onshore in the harbour, an operational centre was established where 90 people support the AUV fleet as of last year. As the fleet continues to grow with the latest A18 variant at the end of the decade, the Navy aims to to increase this support base to 300 people by 2030.

A27 limits incur cost of new support ships

Unfortunately, French AUV operations in this timeframe are limited to the Brest marina itself because the endurance of the A27 system is too short to venture beyond this area – they are only capable of travelling ten nautical miles unaided.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

This prompted the Navy to procure six new support ships to help increase the range of its current AUV systems; these vessels are expected to be delivered in 2028.

The new support ships will extend the range of the A27s by another 100 miles.

Future A18 AUV features

Meanwhile, the A18 is a mid-sized AUV that also performs a range of MCM missions, including identification and classification of conventional underwater mines and mine-like targets.

ECA Group designed the system with modular design techniques in mind. It withstands harsh environmental conditions and offers greater stability when encountering heavy turbulence from waves.

The high degree of stability enables the vehicle to capture high-resolution images. The system obtains information that the operators subsequently process in the command centre. An uncrewed surface vessel (USV) will act as a bridge between the command centre and the AUV.

The lightweight and compact design of the vehicle allows the operators to deploy it from small platforms such as USVs, frigates and corvettes.

In contrast with the A27, this vehicle can operate at a maximum depth of 300 metres, which can be altered based on the operational requirements.