Thales, in conjunction with ECA Group, L3Harris Technologies and Saab, is set to deliver the world’s first fully-integrated unmanned mine countermeasures system to the Royal Navy and the Marine Nationale from 2022.
The Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) programme was launched in 2015, since when the technology has been demonstrated, rigorously tested and qualified under real conditions at sea. The tenth anniversary of the Anglo-French Lancaster House treaty was marked in November by the signature of a contract for the production and delivery of eight MMCM systems, four for each navy.
The programme marks the beginning of a ‘reset’ of the mine warfare operational doctrine in both nations – one if which the increasing use of unmanned systems reflects the evolution of the mine threat in the naval domain. It offers a step change in capability, improving performance and productivity, while protecting personnel. Further, it strengthens the role played by both navies as world leaders in both mine hunting and unmanned systems in the maritime domain.
The subsystems developed for the programme include a cutting-edge sonar (SAMDIS), offering unique single path multi-view capability to identify and classify threats. The SAMDIS sonar can be carried by Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) or by Towed Synthetic Aperture Multiviews (TSAM) vehicles operated from the USV, which can also carry a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to neutralise the threats. The entire system is remotely supervised by operators working from a portable operations centre, controlling up to three systems in parallel at sea.
MMCM is the only proven system to offer advanced technologies, including autonomy, to improve performance and productivity. This is largely thanks to the combination of real-time user experience using big data exchange with trusted augmented artificial intelligence (A2I) to provide customer trust in operation clearance and increase the security of national interests. The open-architecture approach to MMCM means these new technologies can be easily integrated into the overall system, providing the navies the opportunity to introduce new operational capabilities in a planned manner.
After the success of the first configuration conducted under real operational conditions with the complete system, Thales is now fully committed to deliver the first operational systems to French and British navies by 2022. This programme testifies of the exemplary cooperation between the two states and industrial teams and anchors Thales’s unique expertise and World leading position in conventional MCM, supporting over half the world’s anti-mine vessels with over 300 systems in service.
“To date during trials, the MMCM system and its assets have covered the equivalent of 30,000 soccer fields at sea, sometimes with very rough sea conditions. This is indeed a step change in how navies will be able to respond in the future to vicious threats such as mines and improvised explosive devices at sea,” commented Alexis Morel, VP Underwater Systems at Thales.