The British Royal Navy has taken delivery of the first unmanned minesweeper system that has been designed to safely defeat the threat of modern digital mines along sea lanes.
The Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) Combined Influence Minesweeping has been developed and manufactured by Atlas Elektronik UK and is the navy’s first fully autonomous capability demonstrator.
It is expected to undergo a series of trials in the near future before being deployed by the Royal Navy.
Defence Minister Guto Bebb said: “This autonomous minesweeper takes us a step closer to taking our crews out of danger and allowing us to safely clear sea lanes of explosives, whether that’s supporting trade in global waters and around the British coastline or protecting our ships and shores.
“Easily transported by road, sea and air, the high-tech design means a small team could put the system to use within hours of it arriving in theatre.”
Atlas Elektronik has designed the minesweeping system as part of a £13m contract with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The project has allowed the company to sustain approximately 20 jobs, as well as generate 15 additional job opportunities.
The minesweeper is equipped with latest and advanced technologies and possesses the ability to defeat upgraded digital sea mines capable of detecting and targeting military vessels passing overhead.
In addition, the system features a ‘sense and avoid’ capability and can also work together with other similar unmanned systems to ensure enhanced safety.
Royal Marines Maritime Capability assistant chief of the naval staff and MHC Programme senior responsible officer brigadier Jim Morris said: “Combined Influence Minesweeping is a critical component of the mine countermeasures capability.
“This autonomous system will restore the Royal Navy’s sweep capability, enabling it to tackle modern digital mines that may not otherwise be discovered in challenging minehunting conditions.
“This autonomous sweep system represents a fundamental step in the navy’s transition to autonomous off-board systems to counter the threat posed to international shipping by the sea mine.
“We look forward to commencing demonstration of the associated minehunting system in 2019.”
The system has been specifically designed to be operated from a land or ship based control station.
It can be deployed from a suitable navy vessel or port facility.