UK Royal Navy Realises MHC Sweep Capability
Launched and recovered from a “Hunt“ class MCMV, ARCIMS can be remotely-operated from shore with the minimum of support.
(Photo: ATLAS Elektronik UK)
Stefan Nitschke, Bonn (Germany) 29 July 2015 - The Royal Navy is addressing an autonomous minesweeping capability to defeat sea-mines whilst reducing risks to service personnel. ATLAS Elektronik UK (AEUK) has been selected by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) to deliver a prototype Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV)-based minesweeping system under the first phase of the Royal Navy’s Mine Countermeasures and Hydrographic Capability (MHC) Sweep Capability project. It is intended to provide Britain’s Navy with an influence minesweeping capability, certainly filling in the gap left by acoustic and magnetic influence sweeps that were retired in 2005. They were described by industry sources as “obsolescent”.
The MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) organisation laid out a requirement for a prime contractor to develop, manufacture, demonstrate, and support a USV-based multi-influence minesweeping capability in June 2014. The new system would be deployed from “Hunt” class mine countermeasures vessels (MCMVs).
On 6 March 2015, DE&S awarded AEUK to develop the USV-based minesweeping system, which, according to the company’s Managing Director Antoni Mazur, is another significant milestone for the company as it continues to expand its business. DE&S selected AEUK ahead of a rival bid from Ultra Electronics that was teaming with THALES UK and ASV. AEUK representatives told NAVAL FORCES at UDT 2015 in Rotterdam that its MHC Sweep Capability bid is based on the ARCIMS (Atlas Remote Capability Integrated Mission Suite) remote MCM system that will be able to detect and counter underwater mine threats, as well as detonating and neutralising them in a controlled manner.
The technology developed by AEUK will eliminate the risk to human life due to undersea mines. Philip Dunne MP, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, said: “It [...] represents an important development in the Royal Navy’s ability to exploit its international expertise in Maritime Minesweeping and to advance its capabilities in the emerging world of maritime autonomous systems.”
As noted in AEUK’s fact sheet, ARCIMS functions as a toolbox of capabilities for multi-influence minesweeping, mine hunting, and other operations. The company noted that it was developed as a private venture. The 11m long, glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) craft manufactured by ICE Marine will be able to conduct manned or fully autonomous mission module operations, including launch and recovery of off-board systems. The latter will be provided by Babcock, in addition to an operational training package and platform system integration. BAE Systems will integrate the system within its NAUTIS command system that is installed on all of the “Hunt” class MCMVs.
ARCIMS’ Sweep Mission Module is a fully-containerised package consisting of towed sweeps for acoustic, electric, and magnetic influences. The module is suitable for transportation by road, sea, and air. Also included in the package are launch-and-recovery arrangements, and a Reconnaissance Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Hangar (RUUVH), of which the latter will be installed on selected MCMVs.
Phased Development Process
According to the contract awarded by DE&S, development work by AEUK is split into three blocks:
Block 1, for which AEUK is now under contract, covering the design and construction of a prototype sweep system (followed by full acceptance and demonstration in a portable mode);
Block 2 envisaging the integration of the prototype sweep system into a “Hunt” class MCMV (followed by full acceptance testing and demonstration of the “Hunt”-based system); and
Block 3, encompassing the supply of follow-on systems to the same design. The latter also will incorporate any changes necessary to achieve full acceptance of the prototype.
AEUK said current planning assumes options for the manufacture of up to four USV-based minesweeping systems and RUUVHs.