Thales has signed an agreement with Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASV) to jointly develop a re-configurable unmanned surface vehicle (USV) in a bid to meet future off-board mine countermeasures (MCM) operations requirements.
Currently under construction, the low signature 11.5m-long USV has a beam of 3.6m and will have a maximum speed capability of around 25k.
Capable of deploying from military platforms, craft and from shore/harbour, the vessel has been designed to be air transportable with payload flexibility for MCM systems, including unmanned underwater vehicles, towed sonar, disposal systems, and minesweeping.
The vehicle is scheduled to undergo acceptance trials later on this year, followed by a series of payload trials will be conducted from early 2013.
ASV managing director Dan Hook: "We are pleased to be developing such an advanced capability with Thales UK and are confident in the system's performance for the wide range of roles."
Thales UK's naval business head Phil Naybour said that the company, as the MCM capability integrator of more than half the world's in-service fleet of mine-hunters, has years of experience and understanding of mine warfare operations alongside world-class sensors and systems.
"The unmanned surface vehicle will be central to the success of these new concepts of operation in mine warfare; being able to demonstrate and de-risk both the vehicle and its potential payloads is a clear benefit to both our customers and ourselves."
The Royal Navy's mine warfare fleet of Sandown-class and Hunt-class vessels are currently integrated with Thales 2093 and 2193 sonar systems to provide detection and classification of ground and moored mines.
In addition to the Royal Navy and Estonian Navy Sandown-class mine-hunters, the 2093 sonar is also in service with the navies of Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan, Turkey and South Korea.