The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and France's Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) have agreed to invest more than £17m to design a new maritime mine counter measures (MMCM) demonstrator, to better tackle the threats of underwater mines.
As part of the project, a contract has been signed by the international organisation OCCAR with a Thales-led consortium that includes BAE Systems.
Intended for use by the UK Royal Navy vessels, the design of a MMCM demonstrator will include an unmanned surface vehicle with sonar and an unmanned underwater vehicle.
The MMCM project aims to demonstrate the feasibility of using remotely-operated, unmanned marine vehicles and sensors to detect and dispose of sea-mines threat, while enhancing the maritime capability.
UK Defence Minister Philip Dunne said: "The development of unmanned maritime systems is a new and exciting area for both the UK and France. By working together and drawing on a common vision for unmanned underwater systems, we will be able to explore the military, technological, financial and skills benefits that developing this maritime capability could bring.
"This work also feeds into the government's defence growth partnership, aimed at ensuring the UK's defence sector grows in the future by strengthening our global centre of excellence and inspiring the next generation."
In order to provide main inputs into the UK mine countermeasures and hydrographic capability programme, the project will include an 18-month period of associated studies, design and the system definition.
The Délégué général pour l'armement Laurent Collet-Billon added: "The maritime mine warfare MMCM project occupies a significant place within the preparation of future defence systems for British and French armed forces.
"It demonstrates the strong aspiration of our two countries to innovate in order to keep ahead in underwater warfare from a technological, industrial and operational perspective."
Image: The MMCM project aims to demonstrate use remotely-operated, unmanned marine vehicles and sensors to detect and dispose of sea-mines threat. Photo: courtesy of Thales.