The Royal Navy has taken delivery of an autonomous minesweeping system that can safely clear sea lanes of modern digital mines.
Designed and manufactured by the UK subsidiary of German company Atlas Elektronik, the new system features a “sense and avoid” capability. Its self-driving launch vessel tows three smaller craft, which are subsequently able to trigger detected mines from a distance.
The project is intended to demonstrate the viability of an unmanned surface vessel that can effectively clear mines and which is designed to be operated from a land or ship-based control station and deployed from a suitable ship or port.
So-called ‘digital mines’ are able to detect and target military ships passing overhead, and it can be difficult to counter them using current minesweeping techniques.
The performance of the Royal Navy’s new sweeping system has been tested over the past four months, and it will now undergo more detailed trials before it is officially placed into service.
“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,” says Brigadier Jim Morris, Royal Marines — assistant chief of the naval staff in maritime capability.
“We look forward to commencing demonstration of the associated minehunting system in 2019.”