The UK Ministry of Defence has recently confirmed that Thales’ uncrewed surface vessel passed a significant milestone in autonomous mine hunting trials. The trials were run in December 2022 by the Royal Navy Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team (MASTT), supported by Thales. Observing and approving the trials off Weymouth Bay were representatives from the UK Naval Authority and Technology Group (NATG) and the Mine Hunting Capability team from the Ministry of Defence.
The program delivers world-leading maritime mine warfare capabilities, which will keep the UK and France at the forefront of naval autonomous systems technology. The delivery of uncrewed mine clearance platforms will allow the Royal Navy (RN) to continue its essential role of keeping shipping lanes open without putting sailors or crewed platforms into the threat area.
Fitted with a powerful combination of sensors, including radar, LIDAR (light detection and ranging), and electro-optical and infra-red cameras, the vessel’s position was continuously relayed to the command and control center over a secure communications network.
This connection enabled the command and control software to merge the sensor inputs into a single (Coherent) tactical picture using Thales MCube mission management software. It also allows detecting and tracking other vessels and taking appropriate actions, including remotely controlled avoidance maneuvers.
In service, these vessels will be capable of operating in national waters or being air-transported quickly across the world to hunt for mines in danger zones or secure sea lines of communications while demonstrating high reliability, autonomy, and cybersecurity rates. They can be deployed and operated from ship and shore bases providing configurable and performant capability.
RNMB Apollo is one of the two pre-production Uncrewed Surface Vessels delivered to the Royal Navy and Marine Nationale (French Navy) in December 2021 as part of the joint UK-France Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) program which will bring autonomous mine hunting capability to the two respective Fleets.
With stage two of the contract now in the production phase, Thales is actively working with the customers and will be able to deliver full operating capability to both Nations in 2024.
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Post Image- Thales Uncrewed Surface Vessel (Image Credit: Thales photo by Ewan Lebourdais)