At the Undersea Defence Technology 2024 conference in London, the Naval Group’s presentation highlighted the urgent need for advanced mine countermeasure (MCM) programmes to combat the evolving sea mine threats, introducing a “stand-off” concept poised to improve maritime defence strategies.

Naval Group’s presentation at UDT 2024 shed light on the challenges faced by traditional MCM programmes in countering modern threats. Mr. Aymeric Bonnaud, the Scientific Director at Naval Group, emphasised the shortcomings of legacy mine-hunting methods, citing issues such as slow operations, poor mine discrimination, and the inability to detect buried and drifting mines.

The emergence of new-generation sea mines equipped with intelligent weapon systems has further intensified the need for MCM solutions. Philippe Méléard, International Business Development lead at Naval Group, emphasised the complexity of detecting buried mines, which is exacerbated by climate change, shifting currents, and conflicts in regions like the Black Sea.

“Allies in the Black Sea are looking at how to detect mines in the Black Sea. It’s affecting both sides. Both will eventually have to clear them to allow commercial shipping in the Black Sea.”

In response to these challenges, Naval Group introduced a “stand-off” concept aimed at enhancing MCM capabilities. This concept leverages technology, including Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), to conduct MCM operations from a safe distance, minimising risks to personnel and vessels.

The Mine Counter Measures Lab, established by Naval Group, fosters collaboration between academia, industry, and government entities to drive MCM technologies. With over 20 ongoing projects and a focus on real-world applications, the lab serves as a hub for developing MCM solutions to respond to Belgium’s naval ambitions in the field of mine countermeasures. 

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Naval Group, in collaboration with Kership, launched the second of 12 Belgian-Dutch mine countermeasure vessels (MCMVs) as part of the rMCM programme. The vessel, named Vlissengen, is set for delivery to the Royal Netherlands Navy in 2025. This programme, awarded in 2019, aims to replace ageing Alkmaar-class minehunters with modern vessels suitable for various missions, including mine detection, anti-piracy, and territorial waters surveillance.

Naval Group’s vision emphasises the importance of partnership and collaboration by adopting a triple helix model and engaging stakeholders from diverse backgrounds.

With the introduction of concepts like “stand-off”, and ongoing advancements in MCM technologies, naval forces will be better equipped to anticipate and mitigate the ever-evolving threats posed by sea mines.