The Royal Australian Navy has announced that it is deploying Mine Counter-Measures (MCM) capability under Project SEA 1778 in order to protect maritime task groups from the threat of sea mines.

Under the Phase I of Project 1778, Australian Mine Warfare Team 16 (MWT 16) was commissioned to operate a host of unmanned surface vessels (USV), expendable mine neutralisation systems, MCM support craft, and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV).

The Royal Australian Navy stated that, by introducing new MCM technology into service, it is revolutionising its approach to maritime mine warfare.

The roll-out of the equipment will be the man-portable ‘Bluefin-9’ AUV, for which MWT 16 is undergoing pilot training at Sydney’s Pittwater area.

Commander Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological, Oceanographic and Patrol Force (COMMHP) Captain Bryan Parker said the task group MCM capability is aimed to offer a tactical capability required to cutting down the hazard of mines in the littoral maritime domain for navy’s deployed fleet, whilst aiming to reduce the exposure of its personnel to dangerous sea mines.

He added: “By its very nature, MCM operations are a time-consuming task and conventional minehunters have a relatively slow speed of advance compared to our other warships. We are aiming to provide an MCM capability in-stride with, or in some cases ahead of, deploying maritime task groups to effectively speed up the time taken on this important function and enabling maritime manoeuvre.”

“There’s a global up-swell of interest and enthusiasm in what we’re doing with the use of remote and autonomous systems (with potential for significant embedded artificial intelligence) because of the diversity and complexity of sea mine types available, the dangers they pose to our current and future fleet, and the need to ensure the safety our people involved in MCM operations.”

MWT 16 commanding officer Lieutenant Commander John Sutherland said that the navy’s joint commitment to training with Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) and industry partners, such as the Australian Maritime College, was boosting the team’s capacity to achieve the initial operating capability milestone.

He added: “We’ve been working with partners to upskill our people in the operation of AUV technology and provide them with invaluable underpinning AUV knowledge required to execute activities.”

MWT 16 will start receiving the new technology suite later this year. This suite will include three Bluefin-12 AUVs, two unmanned surface vessels for remote influence minesweeping, four Bluefin-9 AUVs, and the Seafox Expendable Mine Neutralisation System, and three MCM Support Boats.