Atlas Elektronik £13 Million Development & Production Contract
Atlas Elektronik UK has delivered an autonomous minesweeping capability to the Royal Navy, it was announced on 4 May. The £13 million development and production contract has sustained some 20 jobs within the company and created 15 new ones. Following a period of successful trials, the demonstrator system could go on to be used by the RN in the future to defeat the threat of modern digital mines.
Over the last four months, the system has been put through its paces by Atlas Elektronik and Defence Equipment and Support team members and the RN Maritime Autonomous Systems Trials Team (MASTT). The system was tested against a number of performance requirements, for example, how well it cleared mines, whether the autonomous system could successfully avoid obstacles and the overall system performance.
The system’s innovative and modernised technology has the ability to defeat today’s digital sea mines, which can detect and target military ships passing overhead. The sweeper system, which features a ‘sense and avoid’ capability, could also work together with other similar autonomous systems for the common goal of making British waters safer. The project also aims to demonstrate the viability of an unmanned system that can safely and successfully clear mines and which is designed to be operated from a land or ship-based control station and can be deployed from a suitable ship or port.
“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. We are investing millions in innovative technology now, to support our military of the future,” commented Minister for Defence Procurement, Guto Bebb.
“The Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) Combined Influence Minesweeping system is the Royal Navy’s first fully autonomous capability demonstrator and paves the way for the introduction of this technology across the full range of maritime capabilities. 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 offboard 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,” stated Brig. Jim Morris, RM, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff, Maritime Capability and Senior Responsible Officer for MHC. The MHC programme aims to de-risk maritime autonomous systems and introduce these new technologies into the RN.
“The autonomous minesweeper offers a commander the ability to defeat mines that cannot be countered by current hunting techniques and significantly reduces the risk to crew members in pressured and time-constrained operations. The system can offer greater flexibility and upgradability, allowing the Royal Navy to respond better to the sea-mine threat in the long-term and operate more effectively around the world,” added Director Ships Support at Defence Equipment & Support, Neal Lawson.