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Author: Subject: Mine warfare, all aspects
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[*] posted on 5-2-2019 at 01:07 PM


Atlas Elektronik details Belgian-Dutch MCM offering

Beth Stevenson, London - Jane's Defence Weekly

04 February 2019

Atlas Elektronik has revealed details of its proposal for the mine countermeasures (MCM) component of an ongoing Belgian-Dutch naval technology requirement, which will include the establishment of a Centre for Maritime Autonomy (CMA).

Belgium is leading the MCM element of a joint acquisition of MCM vessels and systems, while the Netherlands is charged with developing the replacement for the two nations’ frigate fleets. As a result, Atlas Elektronik has pledged to establish the CMA and work with Belgian industry to offer a series of technologies for the mine-hunting requirement.

This includes offering its integrated mine countermeasures system ‘toolbox’ comprising the Atlas Remote Capability Integrated Mission System (ARCIMS) unmanned surface vehicle (USV), SeaCat autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), towed synthetic aperture sonar, a mine-sweeping capability, a vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial vehicle, and a mine avoidance sonar.

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[*] posted on 22-2-2019 at 07:20 PM


Belgian-Dutch MCM - Imtech Belgium - Damen unveiled its solutions

POSTED ON WEDNESDAY, 20 FEBRUARY 2019 14:20

Belgium and the Netherlands have decided to jointly replace their identical Mine Counter Measures (MCM) capability. Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilders (DSNS), in association with Imtech Belgium, forming the Imtech Belgium - Damen corporation, have submitted their bid to the Belgian MoD which is in charge of the final selection. This bid includes a mothership coupled with 2 different toolboxes.


AIP front atlasA design of the prototype of the mothership proposed by Imtech Belgium - Damen (Picture source : Damen Schelde)

As a reminder, Mine Counter Measures (MCM) vessels are ships able to locate and disarm explosives under water. These vessels are equipped with a range of modern underwater sensors, such as hull mounted sonars, and remotely operated submersible vehicles that can approach and destroy dangerous underwater objects.

Richard F.M. Keulen, Director Naval Sales Support at Damen, told Navy Recognition during NAVDEX 2019, UAE, that "as this project of MCM vessels is part of a cooperation between the Belgian and Dutch navies, it would make perfect sense that Belgian and Dutch companies join hands to take care of it". Therefore, in March 2018, Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS) and Imtech Belgium set up a temporary trade association, called Imtech Belgium – Damen, as the potential main contractor to the Belgian MoD.

Through the purchase of new MCM vessels, Belgium and the Netherlands are seeking to maintain their joint naval forces as a leader of the mine-hunting for the NATO forces. Actually, Belgian and Dutch navies excel in this area of expertise but must today strengthen their expertise by acquiring more capable and up-to-date vessels. The Belgian Navy introduces a new concept with a mothership staying outside of the mine field and a toolbox of highly sophisticated unmanned vehicles to remotely and autonomously search, detect, classify and neutralise any mine threat. Therefore, Imtech Belgium - Damen has decided to put its own expertise of MCM at the service of both countries, helping them to reach their objectives of remaining a worldwide leader in the mine-hunting. Though, 2 other consortiums are competing for the contract, Sea Naval Solutions (“Chantiers de l’Atlantique”, with Socarenam, Belgian EDR and Thales) and Naval & Robotics (Naval Group with ECA Robotics).

The bid of Imtech Belgium - Damen consists in the providing of a mothership to both navies, equipped with a large toolbox of unmanned equipment. And the strength of Imtech Belgium - Damen could be its decision to give the opportunity to the navies to choose between two different toolboxes. One made by ATLAS ELEKTRONIK, and the other one made by OIP (Sensor Systems).

The ATLAS-built toolbox would include IMCMS, ARCIMS USV, SeaCat AUV, Towed SAS, influenced mine sweeping equipment capability, a vertical take-off and landing drone, mine avoidance sonar as well as the related system integration. ATLAS’ offer includes the sophisticated integration into the Combat Management System of the vessels and next to that being able to work on a stand-alone basis.


ATLAS toolboxA design of the ATLAS' toolbox (Picture source : ATLAS ELEKTRONIK)

As for the OIP toolbox, it would include a Combat Management System (CMS), an Unmanned Airborne Vehicle (UAV), an Unmanned Sea Vehicle (USV), a diverse range of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) and sensors, and a simulator and a containerized control center. The command-and-control system (CMS) developed by OIP and set-up on the mother ship, enables a direct control of the different unmanned vehicles. The OIP system also provides a direct and secure link between the various elements of the systems (for instance enabling a live and completely secure data transfer from the USVs to the ship). These tools are highly adaptive and can also be used for other purposes than Mine Counter Measure missions. The Unmanned Airborne Vehicle and the Unmanned Sea Vehicle can be a great asset for any Search & Rescue (SAR) or Home Land Security (HLS) operation, windfarm inspection, detection of human trafficking, etc…


OIP toolboxA design of the OIP's toolbox (Picture source : OIP Sensor Systems)

In addition to the providing of new vessels, Imtech Belgium – Damen plans to develop a MCM “Valley”, in which both companies (i.e. Imtech Belgium and Damen) will cooperate on the development, the building, the maintenance and the upgrading and modernisation of those vessels and their toolboxes, but also on the innovation and the development of a cluster of industries. All these activities will land in Belgium. Above all, through this contract, Imtech Belgium – Damen aims to continue the strategic partnership between Belgium and the Netherlands, in the area of MCM, where both nations already form the landmark internationnaly for NATO and EU. This leading position will then result in other nations joining this new concept, meaning export opportunities.
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[*] posted on 18-3-2019 at 09:48 PM


Belgium chooses French consortium Naval Group and ECA Robotics for its mine hunters

POSTED ON SUNDAY, 17 MARCH 2019 19:43

The Belgian government has made a decision for the replacement of the Navy’s mine hunters. Didier Reynders, Minister of Defense, announced that the Council of Ministers had endorsed the choice of the French consortium formed by Naval Group & ECA Robotics for the replacement of its mine hunters (six for Belgium, six for The Netherlands).


The French consortium formed by Naval Group & ECA Robotics has won the tender for the replacement of mine hunters in the Belgian and Dutch navies (six for Belgium, six for The Netherlands) (Picture source: Naval Group)

The purchase price is 2.6 billion euros, of which half (1.115 billion) is borne by Belgium. Compared to the initial estimate, as in the F-35 purchase file, a saving is made, of the order of 200 million euros this time, which will make it possible to invest in European projects related to maritime capacity.

The two French companies Naval Group & ECA-Robotics had joined forces to win this market. This consortium has won against two other bidders, the Dutch group Damen Schelde, associated with the company Imtech België and a consortium called Sea Naval Solutions, bringing together the Thales shipyards, including Thales Belgium, STX France, Socarenam and the Antwerp firm Engine Deck Repair (EDR).

The winning consortium promised the creation of 4 billion euros of turnover and 7,000 jobs in Belgium over 20 years. Economic returns are 50% in Flanders, 35% in Wallonia and 15% in Brussels. For this purpose, 39 partnerships with Belgian companies have already been signed.

In addition to the creation of an industrial center of excellence in the field of the fight against naval mines, a drone production plant (1,550 drones including 1,300 submarine mine destruction drones) will be established in Zeebruges. The maintenance will be 100% Belgian. The contract for the Belgian part is estimated at 1.1 billion euros. "Future capacity will use unmanned systems on the surface, above water level and under water to detect and neutralize mines. Thanks to this new method of work, the mothership and its crew will be able to stay out of the minefield because only drones will be active there”, the statement explains.

The Belgian Navy is implementing an innovative concept in this Mine Countermeasures (MCM) vessels. It intends to remain a pioneer and an internationally recognized expert in the fight against mines. These mine hunters will measure more than 80 meters long and will be able to accommodate up to 63 crew members. They will be larger than those currently possessed by the Marine Component.

The dossier has been delayed for three months, particularly because of its complexity, Minister Didier Reynders explained in committee this week. The government, however, was determined to make a decision before the end of the legislature, thus closing the major military investment cases.

The file was made jointly with the Netherlands, which is responsible for the frigates. If the European tender was managed by Belgium, representatives of the Dutch Defense were present on the bid evaluation team. Delivery of the first mine hunter is expected from the end of 2023. From 2025, ships will then be delivered alternately to The Netherlands and Belgium. The last delivery is scheduled for 2030.
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[*] posted on 19-3-2019 at 06:16 PM


Twelve New Mine Countermeasures Vessels for Belgian and Dutch Navies

(Source; Belgian Ministry of Defence; issued March 15, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)


Belgium and The Netherlands have selected the new minehunting system developed by Naval Group and ECA to replace their Tripartite-class minehunters; it will consist of mother ships operating unmanned surface and underwater vehicles. (BN&RC image)

The contract for the construction and maintenance of twelve new mine countermeasures vessels has been awarded to the Naval Group / ECA Robotics consortium. These vessels, for both the Belgian and Dutch Navies, will be equipped with modular deployment drones. The two governments gave their agreement on March 15th. The European tender was managed by the Belgian Defense but both countries were part of the bid evaluation team.

In early 2018, the Belgian Minister of Defense and his Dutch counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly acquire a new minehunting capability so as to reduce the purchase and maintenance price per ship. The current ships are over thirty years old and will reach the end of their service life in 2023.

The future capability will use unmanned systems on the surface, above water level and under water to detect and neutralize mines. Thanks to this new method of work, the mothership and her crew will be able to stay out of the minefield because only drones will be active there.

Naval mines are relatively inexpensive and widely available weapons. They can easily prevent access to ports and waterways. An incident on the Scheldt or in the North Sea can represent a daily economic loss of fifty million euros. Ensuring the safety of waterways and ports is therefore crucial for our economy. Each week, our ships are engaged as they participate in international missions.

The Belgian Navy has been recognized for over 50 years for its expertise in the field of mine countermeasures. This modernization program will strengthen its position within NATO as an expert and pioneer in the field.

The new system will cost more than two billion euros. Our Navy is waiting for the first of its six ships in 2023. The first Dutch ship will be delivered a year later.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: According to Belgian Federal MP Georges Dallemagne, the contract itself will cost €1.853 billion, of which Belgium will pay €887 million and The Netherlands €966 million.
The best-case scenario values offsets to Belgium at €1.677 billion.)

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[*] posted on 29-3-2019 at 02:58 PM


RFA Mounts Bay Becomes Minehunter During US Navy Test

(Source: Royal Navy; issued March 27, 2019)

Support ship RFA Mounts Bay was used as the test bed for hosting a mobile US Navy minehunting force including helicopters, divers, remote-controlled boats and automated surveying machines at short notice.

The test off the coast of Virginia was intended to see whether a task force without a minehunter assigned to it could hunt mines by sending out a mobile team with all their kit and to see whether it could be done on a British ship.

Around 120 United States Navy sailors, civilians and contractors formed the mine countermeasures mission module assigned to Mounts Bay, which has spent the winter hunting drug runners in the Caribbean.

In just three days at the US Navys main Atlantic base in Norfolk, Virginia, the support ship designed to land Royal Marines and their equipment during amphibious operations was turned into a makeshift hub of minehunting.

Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28 known as the Dragon Whales flew their MH-60S Sea Hawks aboard. The helicopters are equipped with a new laser system to detect mines below the surface of the ocean as well as a new piece of kit which can neutralise them from the air.

The core of the team joining RFA Mounts Bay was drawn from the US Navys Expeditionary Mine Counter-Measures Mobile Unit Two (ExMCMMU2) who used Mounts Bay as the launchpad for raiding boats carrying torpedo-shaped devices which can be sent out to scan the seabed; if they found anything, divers went into the water to inspect the objects.

The US unit also took charge of the various mine warfare forces and units embarked on Mounts Bay, demonstrating how the US Navy and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary can work seamlessly together on a complex minehunting operation.

In addition, the Textron Unmanned Surface Vehicle was loaded aboard; it can be sent off on missions lasting hundreds of miles, searching for mines or submarines. This was one of the first times it has been successfully operated from a ship at sea.

I have nothing but high regard for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary they have been superb at assisting all aspects of this experiment; no request was regarded as too difficult.
Commander John Haase, US Navy

After all the planning and theory, Commander John Haase, commanding the US detachment aboard the British ship, said his team relished the chance to put all that into practice.

"There is an increased sense of realism and urgency with operating real systems off RFA Mounts Bay against simulated real-world threats," he added.

"I have nothing but high regard for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary they have been superb at assisting all aspects of this experiment; no request was regarded as too difficult."

The ten-day exercise was eight months in the planning and organisers say it confirmed that mobile minehunting is feasible and that ships like the Bay class are well suited for such missions.

Captain Jed Macanley RFA, Mounts Bays Commanding Officer, said his ship was often described as a Swiss army knife due to its versatility and the experimental exercise off the Virginian coast merely underlined that tag.

"At short notice Mounts Bay was reconfigured to operate as both a mine counter-measures command platform and a sea base to launch and recover manned and unmanned systems,"

"I am very proud of the agility and flexibility that my ships company has shown in being able to successfully tackle these very diverse challenges. And I have also been very impressed at the speed at which 120 American personnel have integrated themselves into the ship to operate as one team."

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[*] posted on 10-4-2019 at 05:08 PM


U.S. Navy Successfully Completes Developmental Testing of Q-20C Towed Minehunting Sonar

(Source: US Naval Sea Systems Command; issued April 08, 2019)


The AN/AQS-20C Towed Mine-hunting Sonar is streamed into the water at the of the Naval Surface Warfare Centers test range. Developmental testing was completed in February, marking the completion of the Charlie variant modernization. (USN photo)

PANAMA CITY, Florida --- After completing Developmental Testing (DT) in February of 2019, the U.S. Navy is another step closer to delivering the AN/AQS-20C (Q-20C) towed minehunting sonar to the Fleet. The Q-20C has advanced acoustic and electro-optic sensing capabilities that will detect, localize and classify bottom, close-tethered, moored, and volume-moored mines.

According to Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Divisions (NSWC PCD) Q-20C Lead Project Engineer Joe Thomas, the Q-20 C variant has increased capabilities, particularly with regard to searching in multiple modes in the water column.

This is a multi-modal search sonar, said Thomas. When you put the Q-20C sonar sensor in the water, it looks down, to each side, and is also forward-looking. The C-variant upgraded acoustic array technology as well as an integrated, electro-optic identification sensor. Previous versions of this sensor had to swap the volume-search module for an electro-optic identification module. With the latest improvements, its essentially looking everywhere in the surrounding volume of water.

NSWC PCD is considered the nations premier technical center for Mine Warfare and Mine Countermeasures (MCM). NSWC PCDs subject matter experts partnered with Q-20C post mission analysis (PMA) operators during this phase of DT to evaluate the system performance with these latest improvements.

Thomas said the improvements implemented into the C-variant ready the system to be integrated with its intended tow platform, the MCM Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) in Fiscal Year 2020.

Designated on Oct. 8, 2018 as a Program of Record, the MCM USV is a long endurance, semi-autonomous, diesel-powered, all-aluminum surface craft that supports the employment of various MCM payloads.

The Q-20C will be one of the payloads expected to be deployed from the MCM USV, said Thomas. By utilizing both Subject Matter Experts and Fleet Sailors as PMA operators during the Q-20C DT, we were able to better evaluate the system from technical and end-user perspectives. We also experienced significant success with the initial training, the hardware, and the PMA during this phase of testing.

Thomas reported the PMA operators input and recommendations would be reviewed by the technical team for incorporation into the Q-20C for further evaluation and ultimately be useful for the systems integration with the Fleet Users in MCM.

Were excited to finally finish Developmental Testing after the pause caused by Hurricane Michael. This test marks a major milestone in delivering this capability to the Fleet said Thomas.

PMA operators Aerographers Mate Chief Petty Officer Larry Pacquer and Mineman Petty Officer First Class Jonathan Roden reported an equally optimistic outlook for the Q-20Cs potential Future Naval Capabilities.

As part of the Littoral Combat Ships MCM Mission Package, this sensor, when deployed by the MCM USV, can help to clear minefields, said Pacquer.

Once integrated with its intended tow platform, the Q-20C has the potential to facilitate ships safe passage through maritime channels, said Roden. Its going to be technologies like these that will enable the Navy to remove Sailors from the minefields.

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[*] posted on 13-4-2019 at 09:57 PM


New Technology Keeps Sailors Safe, Out of Minefields

(Source: US Naval Sea Systems Command; issued April 11, 2019)


Using a specially-adapted mount called ASQUID, an MH-60 helicopter can lower, deploy and recover a Mk 18 underwater minehunting drone, which is currently delivered by RHIB to its area of operations. (USN photo)

PANAMA CITY, Florida --- Engineers at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) recently completed a flight test using a device that will prevent Navy personnel from having to enter a minefield during mine hunting and clearing missions.

The Airborne Surface Quad Thruster Interface Device, or ASQUID, attaches to the side of a MH-60 helicopter. Once the helicopter is in the right location, the ASQUID lowers the MK-18 into the water and they are able to search for mines, said Tim Currie, NSWC PCD Technical Program Manager for Aviation Systems and Mission Package in service engineering agent. Once the mine sweep is complete, the helicopter can fly over the area and the ASQUID can retrieve the MK-18.

The MK-18 is an underwater drone the searches for mines and is currently delivered to mine fields using a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB). The RHIBs are slow, cant be used in rough waters, and puts Sailors in close proximity to dangerous minefields.

This new delivery method increases the time and speed that the MK-18s are delivered, said Currie. They are able to stay on station longer because they dont waste their internal batteries getting to the minefield. Sailors are our most valuable asset and this new technology puts them out of harms way.

NSWC PCD engineers partnered with Naval Underwater Warfare Center Keyport engineers to perfect the technology and Air Test and Evaluation (HX) 21, an MH-60 helicopter test squadron, completed the flight test to certify the design.

We wanted to make the ASQUID easy for any MH-60 crew to operate, said Currie. Instead of creating our own controller, we purchased XBOX controllers, something we thought a lot of Sailors would be familiar with operating.

The ASQUID was a Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) funded project that was deemed a successful experiment and will be on display at the Department of Defense Lab Day in Washington D.C. April 25.

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[*] posted on 7-5-2019 at 06:37 PM


Navy League 2019: Raytheon mine clearance package moves ahead with AQS-20C sonar, Barracuda effector

Daniel Wasserbly, National Harbor, Maryland - Jane's International Defence Review

06 May 2019


The US Navy has 10 production Raytheon AQS-20C mine-hunting sonar units. Source: NAVSEA/Eddie Green

The US Navy (USN) now has 10 production Raytheon AQS-20C mine-hunting sonar units in the fleet, as the service hopes these can help shift to single sortie detect-to-engage (SSDTE) mine clearance missions.

The AQS-20C has gone through testing but Raytheon and the USN are continuing to learn about how to use it, Randy Brandenburg, Raytheon's seapower business development executive, told Jane's . He expects there could be another competition for another production run, but the navy has not yet finalised or announced such a decision.

The C-model differs from the earlier AQS-20A largely through changes to the software, the forward-looking sonar, and some reliability improvements, Brandenburg said. The towed body is 3.2 m long, 39.2 cm wide, weighs 442.3 kg (outside of water), and provides 2.5 kW power.

The AN/AQS-20C is fitted with a Wide Band Forward Looking Sonar (WBFLS), a Gap Filling Sonar (GFS), and high-resolution side-scanning Synthetic Aperture Sonars (SASs).

Combined, the WBFLS, GFS, and SASs are designed "to detect and classify mine-like objects from the sea floor to the near surface in a single pass", Raytheon said. "The high-resolution acoustic ID Sonar, with advanced Automated Target Recognition [ATR] capabilities, operates in conjunction with the electro-optic sensor to provide the identification capability essential to support a true autonomous, single sortie detect-to-engage mission."

The electro-optics identification capability provides high-definition images of bottom mines using Streak Tube Imaging Laser (STIL) technology, Raytheon said. "The STIL technology provides the operator with both range and contrast data for post-mission analysis to aid in mine identification."

The AQS-20C can be operated in four modes: Single Pass Shallow (SPS) for bottom and moored mine coverage in a single pass, Single Pass Deep (SPD) for moored mine coverage in deep water, Volume Mine (VOL) for coverage at four times the area search rate, and Identification (ID SPS) mode for bottom and moored mine coverage in a single pass with optical imaging of bottom mines.

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[*] posted on 15-5-2019 at 10:03 PM


Modernisation of Estonias Mine Countermeasures Force in the UK Strengthens A 100-Year Tradition

(Source: Thales; issued May 14, 2019)

Huge ferries criss-cross the Baltic Sea and fishermen work its waters but beneath todays peaceful waters lies the discarded legacy of two world wars and a cold one.

Its been estimated that 165,000 were laid during the Twentieth Century in these hotly contested waters, with more explosive ordnance dumped at sea after each world war. The mines were either contact or remotely triggered (magnetic), tethered to the sea bed and relatively easy to sweep and destroy using conventional methods. However, the ordnance that remains now sits on the seabed, waiting to be hauled up in fishing nets or washed onto the shore by tidal action.

A concerted international effort has cleared more than 1000 plus mines since 1995. One of the most densely mined areas are off the coast of Estonias capital city, Tallinn on the approaches to what was the besieged city of Leningrad and the Estonian Navy (Eesti Merevgi) is dedicated to this task and has a flotilla of three specialist mine countermeasures (MCM) vessels. The ships, EML Admiral Cowan, Sakala and Ugandi are former Sandown-class single role minehunters bought from the Royal Navy a decade ago.

Refurbishment

The original Thales 2093 variable depth sonar is being replaced with a Thales 2193 hull mounted sonar which is better suited to the shallow waters of the Baltic where the associated issues of building a seabed visualisation beneath the seas bathymetric layers are not required.

For this reason, all three ships are undergoing a thorough modernisation refit at Babcocks facilities in Rosyth, Scotland, including replacing the existing sonar fit with a hull-mounted array and a complete operations room refurbishment.

The prime contractor for the work, and partner of Babcock, is Thales which is supplying its 2193 hull-mounted sonar. Thaless UK-based Maritime Mission Systems business has a long-established reputation designing and building sonar for the Royal Navy and other customers worldwide but this contract, which was won in the teeth of fierce international competition, also features another Thales product.

As part of the operations room upgrade, each ship will be fitted with Thaless M-Cube combat mission. Unlike their legacy C2 system, M-Cube is based upon an open software architecture which allows quick insertion of new capabilities by third parties. This makes the system more flexible in interfacing with new technologies, including maritime autonomy, in which Thales is a leading player.

Thaless refit project manager Dave Ernill said: The sensitivity of Sonar 2193 coupled with the latest C2 system (M-Cube) means the ships will be able to map out routes and run mine hunting operations in both manual and autopilot mode. This gives the Estonian the enhanced capability theyre looking for.

Thales recently won the contract to upgrade the Royal navys mine hunting flotilla with M-Cube as part of its Oceanographic Reconnaissance Combat Architecture (ORCA) programme, opening the door for closer cooperation between the UK and Estonia in mine countermeasures operations.

Engineering challenge

The ships variable depth sonar body along with its four-tonne winch system is being removed and the aperture in the GRP hull designed to house the old variable depth sonar is being repurposed to fit the new sensor array.

Stephen Rowe is the Mine Countermeasures Sector Director for MMS: Recognising that the ships were originally designed around the installation of a variable depth sonar solution, the engineering required to replace it with a hull mounted sonar has presented some significant challenges, not least from a physical operating space perspective, but also to design an retro-installation that can withstand the stress and shock that a mine countermeasures vessel are required to withstand.

A non-ferrous keel ring several metres across was designed and built to extremely low tolerances to fit around the aperture onto which a new sonar dome housing will be fitted. It must be able to withstand water pressure not only from tidal action but underwater detonations.

New opportunities for Thales

Winning the contract will open up new possibilities for Thales. Stephen said: The delivery as prime contractor, of the reactivation the Estonian Navys mine warfare vessels is a significant achievement which offers the Estonian Navy a proven and sustainable mine warfare capability. This important contract demonstrates Thales ability to successfully deliver complex warfare modernisation programmes.

He continued: The delivery as prime contractor, of the reactivation the Estonian Navys EN Admiral Cowan and EN Sakala mine warfare vessels, is a significant achievement which offers the Estonia Navy a proven and sustainable mine warfare capability. This important contract demonstrates Thaless ability to successfully deliver complex warfare modernisation programmes.

For Thales, the activity of prime contracting the management of a complex maritime modernisation reactivation has allowed our teams to prove their ability to undertake complex re-engineering and will sustain the ships capabilities and allow them to undertake important mine warfare taskings.

Refit timetable

Work on the first vessel, the Estonian Navys flagship EML Admiral Cowan was completed last year and the ship is now undergoing integration trials in Estonia before further sea trials and acceptance activities off the Scottish coast this summer. The second vessel, EML Sakala, arrived at Rosyth site in December 2018 and is undergo the same work package while EML Ugandis refit is due to start later this spring with its acceptance scheduled for the third quarter of this year.

The first ship to complete its refit, the flagship EML Admiral Cowan, is a working symbol of the close links between Estonia and the UK, especially her navy. The ship is named after Admiral Sir Walter Cowan who commanded a Royal Navy taskforce sent to the Baltic Sea in 1919 to keep open the sea lanes as a vital lifeline to the newly independent Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania against Soviet aggression.

Once fully operational, the ships will return to duty and continue in their crucial operation to remove the estimated 80,000 German and Soviet mines off the Estonian coast, but this time with the aid of some of the most advanced Mine Countermeasures technology currently afloat.

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[*] posted on 9-7-2019 at 11:17 AM


Belgium and the Netherlands Purchase New Mine Clearance Vessels

(Source: Netherlands Ministry of Defence; issued July 05, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)


Artist impression of future mine clearance equipment and operations, showing mother ships together with their Inspector 125 unmanned boats which deploy various drones that actually detected and destroy the mines. (Dutch MoD photo)

The construction of 12 new mine combat vessels for Belgium (six) and the Netherlands (six) has been contracted today at a high level, as Dutch State Secretary Barbara Visser, Belgian Defense Minister Didier Reynders, shipbuilder Naval Group and ECA Robotics signed the contract in Brussels. The latter company builds the mine-fighting drone systems with which the ships are equipped.

The contract 2,800-tonne naval vessels specialized in mine clearance. They are particularly quiet for this task and emit few electromagnetic waves. Both signals can trigger mines. They are also shockproof.

With the joint minehunting capability, Belgium and the Netherlands confirm their leading position in the field of defense cooperation. On signing, State Secretary Barbara Visser said: "I am grateful to the Belgian Ministry of Defense for the cooperation and the way in which the project has been implemented so far."

Extensive package of unmanned systems

The ships will receive an extensive package of unmanned surface and underwater systems. Take the unmanned Inspector 125 vessel. This innovative platform allows the ship and its crew to operate at a safe distance, and also increases employability.

The Inspector 125, in turn, has various drone systems on board that are linked to the mine control vessels combat system. These are autonomous A18-M underwater systems, T18-M towed sonar systems and mine identification and destruction systems, such as the remote-controlled Seascan and KSTER-C. All drones can be deployed from the Inspector 125. The package also includes flying and dredging drones. Each ship receives a total of around 10 drones.

Belgian-Dutch naval cooperation

The Belgian-Dutch navy cooperation (BENESAM) goes back a long way. There are joint and integrated staffs, education, training and operations. And, in addition to the joint purchase of mine-fighting capacity, the countries will also jointly purchase virtually identical M-frigates. This makes it possible to distribute the maintenance of these ship types among themselves.

Belgium is the leading party for the replacement of the mine clearance capacity and the Netherlands for the M-frigates.

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[*] posted on 12-7-2019 at 12:24 PM


SLAMF Demonstrated in Brest Harbor

(Source: French Directorate-General of Armaments, DGA; issued July 11, 2019)

(Unofficial translation by Defense-Aerospace.com)


The French Navy has demonstrated its future SLAMF minehunting system, consisting of an unmanned boat (USV) capable of deploying AUVs (yellow drone visible here) to detect, classify and locate naval mines and another to destroy them. (DGA photo)

The unmanned surface vehicle (USV) of the SLAMF program (Systme de Lutte Anti-Mines Futur, or future mine counter-measures system) carried out a demonstration of its capabilities in Brest harbor on June 6, 2019. A demonstration carried out with the assistance of DGA Naval Techniques which set out work out the exercise mines.

Developed in cooperation with the United Kingdom initiated in 2010 as part of the Lancaster House agreement, SLAMF will renew Frances mine warfare capabilities in the next decade. The launch of the prototype took place just over two years ago, to prepare for the implementation phase to begin in 2020.

The SLAMF system includes a remote-controlled robot (ROV) to identify and neutralize mines, three underwater drones (AUV) and a surface drone (USV) equipped with a towed sonar to detect, classify and locate (DCL) the mines. It is the latter, the surface drone, which was demonstrated in the harbor of Brest.

Under the watchful eyes of the French, British and Occar delegations, gathered at the command & control (C2) center, the AUV surface drone was tasked to demonstrate its ability to perform its DCL duties. Once in the operations area, the USV deployed its towed sonar which was able to transmit the sonar images in real time to the C2 operator. Challenge identified: the binomial operator-USV has detected, classified and located in record time all the different kinds of exercise mines deployed by DGA Naval Techniques.

Note that a variant of the ROV, immersed in a pool with a mine placed at the bottom of the basin, was also performed during this day to demonstrate on the one hand the maneuverability of the vehicle, and on the other hand to unveil the imaging capabilities of its approach sonar and the video imaging of its onboard camera.

At the end of this sequence, the delegations went to the naval base to observe the USV at pierside. They were able to board and observe the compactness of this sophisticated equipment.

The qualification review of SLAMF is scheduled for December 2019. By then, the components of the system must have been individually validated. This supposes a heavy schedule: in particular, the qualification of the DCL functions with the AUV must take place in August, that of the ROV neutralization subsystem in October and those of the DCL functions of the USV in November.

From 2020, tests will be conducted on operational scenarios in the Brest area and in Great Britain to complete this qualification.

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[*] posted on 19-7-2019 at 01:08 PM


Pentagon Contract Announcement

(Source: US Department of Defense; issued July 17, 2019)

Lockheed Martin Corp., Rotary and Mission Systems, Riviera Beach, Florida, is awarded a $9,620,135 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-17-C-6308) for engineering support services in support of Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) subsystem development.

Engineering services will be used to develop and study UUV subsystems and concepts initially developed under the Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) program, including navigational capabilities, autonomy, and payload deployment.

Work will be performed in Riviera Beach, Florida, and is expected to be completed by June 2020.

Fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funds in the amount of $3,025,163 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

-- General Dynamics Missions Systems Inc., McLeansville, North Carolina, is awarded a $9,207,817 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously awarded contract N61331-11-C-0017 for engineering services in support of ongoing development, test, and production of the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) program, also known as Knifefish.

The Knifefish program is an ongoing effort to provide a UUV that will provide persistent mine hunting ability in a contested environment.

Engineering services hours are used for a number of efforts, including test and evaluation, engineering change proposal development, and pre-planned product improvement initiatives.

Work will be performed in Quincy, Massachusetts (52%); McLeansville, North Carolina (27%); Braintree, Massachusetts (10%); Hanover, Maryland (5%); Reston, Virginia (5%); and Ann Arbor, Michigan (1%), and is expected to be completed by July 2020.

Fiscal 2019 research, development, test and evaluation (Navy) funding in the amount of $150,000 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.
The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

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[*] posted on 27-8-2019 at 10:09 PM


General Dynamics Knifefish Unmanned Countermeasure Undersea Vehicle Low Rate Production

Posted On Tuesday, 27 August 2019 09:39

The Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program. The decision clears the way for low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the system, PEO USC announced August 23, 2019.


The Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (SMCM UUV), also known as Knifefish (Picture source: U.S. Navy )

General Dynamics Missions Systems Inc., is awarded a $44,595,146 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to previously-awarded contract N61331-11-C-0017 for low-rate initial production of the Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (SMCM UUV), also known as Knifefish. The contract was awarded by the U.S. Navys Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).

Knifefish is a heavyweight class Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) designed for deployment off the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The Knifefish UUV provides the mine warfare commander with enhanced mine-hunting capability by detecting, classifying and identifying both buried mines and mines in high clutter environments.

Knifefishs job is to detect, avoid and identify mine threats, reducing the risk to personnel by operating in the minefield as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries. Knifefish also gathers environmental data to provide intelligence support for other mine warfare systems.

Operations performed by fleet Sailors during Developmental Testing and Operational Assessment included mission planning, launching and recovering the system, monitoring the sorties and processing data. The unmanned undersea vehicles were deployed from a support craft in the vessels of opportunity configuration for all test events in order to provide a characterization of the performance of the entire Knifefish system, including the launch and recovery subsystem.

A full-rate production decision is expected in the fiscal year 2022 after additional testing of LRIP systems. The Navy plans to procure 30 Knifefish systems in all, 24 in support of LCS Mine Countermeasure Mission Packages and an additional six systems for deployment from vessels of opportunity.
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[*] posted on 14-9-2019 at 03:07 PM


EOD Unit Succeeds in Arctic Test of Unmanned Vehicles, Anti-Mine Systems

(Source: US Navy; issued Sept. 12, 2019)


A sailor launches the Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish for an initial underwater survey of Sweeper Cove on Adak Island in the Alaska's Aleutian chain, as part of expeditionary mine countermeasures support for Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise 2019. (USN photo)

ADAK, Alaska --- Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit One (EODMU-1) successfully tested its ability to operate unmanned underwater vehicles and conduct expeditionary mine countermeasures in very shallow Arctic water.

The unit, operating as Combined Task Group 35.1, ran the tests Sept. 2-12 in waters off of Adak, Alaska, in support of Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise (AECE) 2019.

To support an amphibious landing for the U.S. Marine Corps, the Navy must ensure the path to the beach is free of danger to the landing force. Very shallow water, defined as depths of 10-40 feet, by limiting underwater visibility may pose a greater danger of placing personnel in a minefield.

During the exercise, an expeditionary mine countermeasure (ExMCM) company attached to EODMU-1 worked together in a man-machine team with unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to ensure the very shallow water zone was free of hazards. Using the Mk 18 Mod 1 Swordfish and Mk 18 Mod 2 Kingfish, they conducted mine hunting, hydrographic surveys and intelligence preparation of the operational environment ahead of additional Navy and Marine Corps assets that will be operating in the region.

The ExMCM company is a 30-person unit with four elements: the command-and-control element, an unmanned systems platoon, an EOD mine countermeasures platoon and a post-mission analysis element. ExMCM companies first deployed in 2014 and have continued to prove their capabilities, operating from a variety of platforms in many different environments.

Navy EOD is only EOD force that can clear underwater hazards, making the force a crucial enabler for the Navy and Marine Corps team to be able to maneuver where they want to, when they want to, said Cmdr. Brian Reitter, commanding officer of EODMU1. We are excited about the training and evaluation opportunities this exercise has afforded us, and we cant thank the local Adak community enough for hosting us here.

Capt. Oscar Rojas, commodore, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group One, said Navy EOD is constantly pushing the limits of unmanned and autonomous systems to prepare forces to operate in Arctic environments.

Being able to exercise these capabilities as part of AECE 2019 ensures are forces are capable, interoperable, and deployable on short notice, Rojas said. ExMCM provides an inherent flexibility, scalability and rapid-deployment capability that a large platform like a ship or aircraft cannot match. UUVs are a force multiplier for us, improving the efficiency and range of our capabilities and allowing us to work safer and more efficiently in a contested environment.

About 3,000 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel are participating in Arctic Expeditionary Capabilities Exercise (AECE) 2019 in the Aleutian Islands and south-central Alaska through Sept. 28.

AECE is one in a series of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command exercises in 2019 that prepares joint forces to respond to crises in the Indo-Pacific region. AECE will specifically test joint expeditionary force logistical transfer capabilities in the Arctic environment, including wet logistics over the shore, expeditionary mine countermeasures, mobile diving and salvage, offshore petroleum discharge system operations and expeditionary infrastructure assessment program. Navy and Marine Corps participants conduct operational and tactical actions to validate the Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE) and the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) concepts.

EODMU-1 provides operational EOD capabilities such as locating, identifying, rendering safe, exploiting, recovering and disposing of all explosive ordnance including chemical and nuclear weapons while providing access for conventional and special operations forces to maneuver across the full range of military operations.

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[*] posted on 17-9-2019 at 09:43 AM


Maritime Mine Countermeasures Programme: The French and British Navies Blaze the Trail Towards a Global First

(Source: Thales; issued Sept 13, 2019)

Mines reputation as a poor mans weapon has reached new levels in recent years: theyre increasingly cheap, sophisticated, and deadlymaking them highly attractive in a world where criminality and terrorism now rival threats from enemy superpowers. While mines potentially menace everyone at sea, dealing with them effectively is vital in keeping key trade corridors open and guaranteeing maritime access and force projectionespecially for countries with highly valuable assets like aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

Faced with exactly this threat, France and the UK have set out a clear vision for the future of mine warfare: to improve performancefrom detection to neutralisationand to do it while making personnel safer and controlling costs.

Recognising the clear alignment of their objectives, in 2015, the countries fired the starting gun to embrace a new, unprecedented concept of operations: the Maritime Mine Countermeasures (MMCM) Programme. The ambition? By 2020, to be operating a sophisticated system comprising a tailored, toolbox of autonomous seaborne drones.

This includes Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs), a super-performing new sonar (SAMDIS) carried by Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) or towed by USV, and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Remotely controlled by expert operators from a Portable Operational Centre (POC), these would break new ground in collaboration and autonomy. The solution would also be highly portablebeing flown to mined areas in hours, rather than having to sail there over weekswhen needed to support distant coalition operations.

Delivering such an ambitious concept is deeply complex: it means identifying the best in autonomous systems and integrating them into a reliable, safe and cybersecure system of systemswhile still meeting exacting criteria on timescales and value.

Following competitive tendering, the navies chose Thales to help them realise their bold vision. As the world leader in conventional MCM (supporting over half the worlds anti-mine vesselswith over 300 systems in service) and with proven experience of unmanned technology, it could offer unique expertisedrawing on an extended network of 80,000 employees operating across 68 countries.

In addition, its clear systems development process gave it the flexibility to partner with specialist providers (often SMEs) to offer a platform and toolbox that would exactly meet the navies needs. And, with fields like Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Human-Machine Teaming (HMT) advancing rapidly, the companys strategic investment in digital would enable design for tomorrows possibilities too.

Building on these strengths, Thales put in place a customer-focused structure that would underpin the programmes success. This included a handpicked and fully balanced Franco-British team, a new Maritime Autonomy site at Plymouth in the UKin addition to the one established at Brest in France, and a programme and supplier management regime designed to operate seamlessly across several countries.

The navies have developed a high level of trust in Thales, whose commitment to the project has seen it invest heavily in R&D as well as offering advice to help refine the programme timetable. Its trust that has proved well placed: milestones on the road to 2020 have been met, the systems built, and recent, at-sea trials have seen the navies judge that they already have a first-in-series system rather than a prototype. This solid progress bodes well for MMCMs trials on more complex operational scenarios due shortly, delivery of the first full system in 2020, and the long-term safety and effectiveness of the two countries naval personnel.

Assessing recent at-sea, MMCM trials, Royal Navy CDRE Martin Williams said: We have seen this week a really powerful demonstration of the potential that Maritime Autonomous Systems have in delivering Mine Countermeasures around the world The UK/FR MMCM programme has demonstrated many elements of these systems in the water and working together. A very positive demonstration, and we look forward to receiving the first complete MMCM system for further operational evaluation early next year.

Reviewing progress on the programme, Christophe Serrat, Programme Manager at OCCAR (MMCMs management body) commented: This first of its kind MMCM system of systems has successfully started to demonstrate its outstanding technological capabilities: its underwater unmanned vehicle will operate deeper and more discreetly than those currently in service, its unmanned surface vehicle fitted with a highly accurate towed sonar will complete missions faster and nimbler, and its advanced remotely operated vehicle will defeat mine threats quicker thanks to its three accurate ammunitions.

This marks a significant leap forward in MCM methodologies, capabilities and future direction, whereby removing the man from the minefield. OCCAR, managing the MMCM Programme on behalf of France and the United Kingdom, will deliver a prototype to each of its customers early next year, as they expect. These systems will provide the Royal Navy and Marine nationale with maritime force projection and maritime security capabilities, at the time and place of their choice, in support of a wide range of naval operations.

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[*] posted on 21-9-2019 at 04:22 PM


Atlas Elektronik UK Awarded Contract for Supply of Its Autonomous Advanced ARCIMS System

(Source: Atlas Elektronik; issued Sept. 10, 2019)


A previous customer has awarded Atlas Elektroniks UK subsidiary a repeat order for two ARCIMS systems with updated autonomy controller and advanced mine countermeasures (MCM) payloads. (AEUK photo)

Atlas Elektronik UK (AEUK) has another major export contract award for its autonomous advanced ARCIMS unmanned surface vehicle (USV). The contract was awarded by an existing ARCIMS customer, who will now benefit from an additional 2 systems with updated autonomy controller and advanced mine countermeasures (MCM) payloads.

Dr Antoni Mazur, Managing Director of Atlas Elektronik UK: This contract win consolidates AEUKs position as a leading supplier of autonomous mine countermeasure systems, ready to counter the growing threat from maritime mines. We are delighted to be able to again supply our innovative technology to an increasing number of defence customers.

Mines represent a growing threat to maritime commercial and naval traffic, owing to their low-cost and relative ease of deployment. MCM is principally conducted through either finding, then destroying, a mine (mine hunting), or through causing a mine to incorrectly detonate (mine sweeping). AEUK supplies autonomous systems delivering both mine hunting and mine sweeping.

Over six years experience of in-service usage has been incorporated into the update of ARCIMS, with advanced developments to the autonomy controller and mine sweeping payload.

The affordable 11m ARCIMS USV has a modular architecture and is highly customisable for multiple mission roles. It is easily transportable by road, sea or air for rapid deployment from naval bases or strategic operating locations. It has a full multi-sensor sense and avoid system aligned to International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGS).

AEUKs advanced MCM systems include a full suite of mine sweeping influences to defeat modern threat mines. The mine sweeping toolbox includes multiple electric, magnetic and acoustic influences, programmable from a novel, high-output power generation module (PGM). Mine hunting and mine disposal payloads are also available.

Atlas Elektronik UK (AEUK) is building on its legacy of innovation for underwater systems for the Royal Navy. Operating from its Headquarters at Winfrith in Dorset, AEUK has invested in its unique in-house test and integration facilities in order to support its growth in supply to UK and export markets of submarine and ship systems, including sonar, autonomous systems, marine electric actuation and mine counter-measures. With over 400 employees, AEUK is the largest subsidiary in the Atlas Elektronik Group. Atlas Elektronik Group is part of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems.

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[*] posted on 25-9-2019 at 07:20 PM


US Navy stretches modular MCM mindset with T-ESB 4 tests

Michael Fabey, Washington, DC - Jane's Navy International

24 September 2019


The UUV Knifefish was tested aboard Expeditionary Sea Base USNS (T-ESB 4). Source: US Navy

The US Navy (USN) has further expanded its modular concept for countermine (MCM) operations with recent MCM equipment testing aboard the Military Sealift Command's Expeditionary Sea Base USNS Hershel Williams (T-ESB 4).

The MCM equipment and systems are part of the mission-module package designs meant for Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), but the USN has been working to migrate those modules to other platforms as well to better distribute them across the fleet aboard what the service calls "vessels of opportunity".

Williams used the LCS MCM mission package portable control station to manoeuvre the MCM equipment and the launch and recovery equipment, as well as to test the command and control of unmanned vehicles during the tests that occurred in the Chesapeake Bay during mid-September, USN officials said.

Some of that equipment included the unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) Knifefish and an unmanned surface vessel (USV).

The tests marked the first time such unmanned vehicles were launched and recovered by an expeditionary sea base.

The USN plans to rely more on the synthetic aperture sonar (SAS) technology employed on Knifefish for MCM operations.

The Knifefish will be used to detect and classify buried, bottom, and volume mines in high-clutter environments.

Unmanned systems such as the sonar-towing USV are being developed by the USN as part of the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) to provide the kind of future MCM operations US naval forces need.

UISS and the Knifefish UUV recently completed shipboard integration testing on board LCS USS Independence (LCS 2).

Knifefish reached Milestone C, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) confirmed on 26 August, clearing the way for low-rate initial production (LRIP) of the system.

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[*] posted on 26-9-2019 at 01:06 PM


Royal Navy Employing AI for Mine Hunting

9/24/2019

By Mandy Mayfield


Image: Hydroid, Inc.

The United Kingdoms Royal Navy is utilizing artificial intelligence to enable autonomous mine-hunting vessels.

The Route Survey Tasking and Analytics program, or RSTA, is an application that integrates with the sea services data platform, said Nabil Lodey, CEO of Envitia. Envitia is a British geospatial and data company.

The application utilizes AI to schedule and plan routes for mine-hunting surface and subsurface vessels, Lodey said in an interview.

RSTA helps the Royal Navy more efficiently plan survey work for autonomous platforms, he said.

What that means is that you have a fleet of autonomous surface and subsurface vessels that are able to conduct sonar capability to do mine hunting and you have different conditions that each one of those vessels can perform optimally, Lodey said.

The company plans to deliver its application which will be developed on the Navys NELSON data platform by 2022. The NELSON data platform provides clear access to the services data both at sea and ashore, according to Envitia.

Envitia is working with BAE Systems Applied Intelligence to deliver RSTA.

Mine-hunting is currently conducted with a fleet of ships that use sonar capabilities to survey seabeds in search of abnormalities. The new submersibles, which will be enabled with the RSTA, will be able to scan and quickly identify threats, the company said.

The application exists to reduce inefficiencies that come from having a human at the center of calculations, Lodey noted.

Before, the process was quite a lengthy experience, it was a very manual process to identify which vessels you would task to conduct mine hunting or surveying in a certain area.

Envitia will also program the application with its own maritime data, he said.

This application has the potential to transform mine surveying and increase the efficiency of the Navys mine-hunting capability, Lodey said.
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[*] posted on 4-10-2019 at 02:20 PM


NSWC Panama City Supports Mine Countermeasure Mission Package Demo Aboard Vessel of Opportunity

(Source: US Naval Sea Systems Command; issued Oct 02, 2019)


The US Navy provided equipment, personnel, and expertise to demonstrate the modular capability of the Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Mission Package (MP) aboard the United States Naval Ship Hershel Williams (T-ESB 4) earlier this month. (USN photo)

PANAMA CITY, Fla. --- As the lead engineering activity for Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Mission Packages (MP), the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) provided equipment, personnel, and expertise to demonstrate the modular capability of the MCM MP aboard the United States Naval Ship Hershel Woody Williams (T-ESB 4) earlier this month.

The demo included embarkation of the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MCM USV) with Unmanned Influence Sweep System, the Knifefish Mock-up Unit (KMU), mass models for the Airborne Laser Mine Detection and Airborne Mine Neutralization Systems, the Mission Package Portable Control System and other supporting equipment and containers.

In partnership with the Program Executive Office (PEO) Unmanned and Small Combatants, Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mission Modules Program Office (PMS 420) and PEO Ships, Strategic and Theater Sealift Program Office (PMS 385), we were able to successfully launch and recover both the MCM USV and the KMU while anchored in the Chesapeake Bay, said Dr. Erin Cotton, NSWC PCD deputy project manager for the MCM MP Test and Evaluation group. Results from this evolution will be used to plan for the third phase of demonstrations while at-sea in 2020.

This demonstration showed the ability for the MCM MP to integrate aboard vessels in addition to LCS-class ships. Additional modules will be incorporated in order to fully determine the feasibility of employing the MCM MP on vessel of opportunity.

NSWC PCD is committed to rapidly delivering solutions to ensure warfighting dominance, said Dr. Peter Adair, Director of Mine Warfare. The hard work of our men and women in support of this demonstration achieves that goal by providing a more versatile mine countermeasures capability to the Navy in a shorter timeframe.

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[*] posted on 5-10-2019 at 02:53 PM


Naval Group and ECA Group to Present Stand-Off Mines Counter Measures Solution at Pacific 2019

(Source: Naval Group; issued Oct. 04, 2019)



During PACIFIC 2019, Naval Group and ECA Group will showcase their joint solution for stand-off Mines Counter Measures (MCM) selected by Belgium and the Netherlands.

The solution developed by Naval Group and ECA Group is a combination of the latest generation warship and a system of drones (toolboxes) to counter mine risks at sea while keeping humans out of danger, ultimately increasing the efficiency of MCM operations. It meets the needs of modern navies and allows for bespoke solutions.

PACIFIC 2019 will be the opportunity to present this solution for the first time in Australasia, but also to exchange with the Royal Australian Navys who has been looking into renewing its capability in the domain.

The Belgian and Dutch navies, who are world and NATO leaders in mine warfare, have already selected this solution to equip their forces for the next 20 years. Equipped with 80 drones and approximately ten drone systems (toolboxes), each navy will receive 6 ships.

The 2,800-ton Naval Group militarised ship dedicated to mine warfare features military characteristics including acoustic and electromagnetic discretion and shock resistance. In particular, this vessel incorporates a Launch and Recovery System (LARS) for ECA Group's INSPECTOR 125 unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). This innovative, robust and reliable system ensures the safety of operators and manoeuvres, protecting the crew, the ship, the USV and its payloads, while offering a high level of mission availability.

The drone systems on board these (r)evolutionary vessels are the latest generation of drones developed by ECA Group over the past four years, benefitting from over 50 years of developments in robotics. They are integrated into the C2 MCM UMISOFT software connected to the Naval Group's I4drones software to form the mine-warfare mission system that is integrated into the ship's combat system.

The solution includes A18-M autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), T18-M towed sonars and Mine Identification & Destruction Systems (MIDS) composed of SEASCAN and KSTER-C remotely operated vehicles (ROV). All these drones can be operated autonomously from the USV NSPECTOR 125. The drone system also includes unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and mine sweeping equipment.

Drone systems can also be projected. Containerised and equipped with handling and communication systems, they can be airlifted and deployed directly from ashore without a ship.

Belgium Naval & Robotics, a consortium composed of Naval Group and ECA Group, was awarded the contract to supply twelve mine-hunting vessels to the Belgian and Dutch navies in May 2019.

Naval Group is the European leader in naval defense. The Group designs, produces and maintains submarines and surface vessels. It also provides services for naval shipyards and bases. In 2017, the Group generated revenue of 3.7 billion and had 13,429 employees.

ECA Group is an expert in naval drones and unmanned systems and one of the global leaders in this sector for the last 50 years. Moreover, the beginnings of ECA Group in naval robotics took place alongside Naval Group: ECA Group had been tasked with creating a free submarine model at the end of the 60s, which was implemented by Naval Group in St-Tropez. Still used by the French Navy, this robot has been sold in several hundred copies across more than 30 countries.

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[*] posted on 9-10-2019 at 10:04 AM


Northrop Grumman Successfully Tests AQS-24 Deep Tow

(Source: Northrop Grumman; issued Oct. 07, 2019)


Northrop Grumman says its test team demonstrated reliable AQS-24 system operations with excellent sonar performance at all tested depths, while using the system to classify bottom objects of interest. (NG photo)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. --- Northrop Grumman Corporation successfully operated the AQS-24 minehunting sonar at depths greater than 400 feet during system testing off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Embarked on the M/V Richard Becker, the Northrop Grumman test team demonstrated reliable AQS-24 system operations with excellent sonar performance at all tested depths, while using the system to classify bottom objects of interest.

The AQS-24 minehunting system performed superbly at tow depths up to and beyond 400 feet, said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. This latest internal research and development effort underscores our commitment to provide the most innovative, affordable and operationally-proven capabilities to meet the Navys Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mine Countermeasures Mission (MCM) package requirements and future expeditionary MCM needs.

Earlier this year, Northrop Grumman demonstrated an autonomy upgrade path for the AQS-24s minehunting system by integrating and successfully testing the companys image exploitation suite, incorporating state-of-the-art machine learning for automatic target recognition (ATR) using multiple ATR algorithms. Following this successful demonstration, the U.S. Navy plans to incorporate this new capability into existing AQS-24 minehunting systems.

The success of Deep Tow is now followed by the recently commenced in-water testing of Northrop Grummans AQS-24 system on the Navy's MCM unmanned surface vessel (USV) at Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City. This is in preparation for user operated evaluation system testing aboard the LCS in 2020. The AQS-24s newly doubled depth capability is planned for integration and test with the MCM USV system.

These major enhancements to the U.S. Navys only operational mine hunting towed sonar running deeper, automatically detecting and reporting targets, and providing the transition to the LCS MCM USV increases the operational effectiveness of the AQS-24 system while providing the warfighter with an unprecedented capability that affordably meets operational needs and provides a proven path for continued integration of state-of-the-art technology.

Northrop Grumman is a leading global security company providing innovative systems, products and solutions in autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide.

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[*] posted on 9-10-2019 at 08:34 PM


Pacific 2019: Australia trials ScanEagle UAV for MCM operations

Ridzwan Rahmat, Sydney - Jane's Navy International

08 October 2019

The Royal Australian Navys (RANs) 822X Squadron has begun conducting trials of the ScanEagle unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to assess its suitability for mine countermeasure (MCM) operations.

The trials are being conducted with a ScanEagle vehicle that has been equipped with a hyperspectral imaging payload, and are being done in conjunction with the Australian Defence Science and Technology Group.

The operations have been ongoing for about 12 months, and are being conducted around Point Perpendicular, near Jervis Bay.

The purpose of the trials is to determine whether hyperspectral imaging analysis is a suitable detection technique to uncover mines that are located underwater, said Lieutenant Scott Gidley, an operations officer from 822X Squadron.

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[*] posted on 12-10-2019 at 06:17 PM


PACIFIC 2019: Northrop Grumman Proposes Unmanned Minehunter



Northrop Grumman Australia is to offer its AQS-24B airborne and surface minehunting systems to meet the requirements of Royal Australian Navy under its SEA 1905 Maritime Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Program.

The program was announced in April 2019 to replace the RANs remaining four Huon-class minehunter coastal (MHC) ships from the mid-2020s onwards for A$1 billion. Two new ships will be based on the new Arafura-class offshore patrol vessel and deploy four modular unmanned autonomous systems that will be used as the minehunting capability.

Eugene Cumm, director of international mine warfare programs at Northrop Grumman told MON that the AQS-24B system can be fitted onto any Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) that would be deployed on the ships.

He said the system was tested during the Autonomous Warrior 2018 exercise in Jervis Bay against real targets. It deploys by a cable from the USV and employs a combination of a high speed synthetic aperture sonar and a laser line scanner for the real-time detection, localisation and classification of moored mines at high area coverage rates moving at 18kt.

The company announced on 7th October that the AQS-24 system had successfully operated at depths of 120m, double the existing 60m range giving it a Deep Tow capability. This is planned to be integrated into the US Navys Littoral Combat Ship MCM module.

Cumm said that Northrop Grumman has engaged Australian suppliers: Marand, Ferra, Quickstep, AW Bell and Electrotech to ensure that if the AQS-24B is selected the components of the system can be manufactured locally with full assembly, integration and testing.

He added that more rigorous testing with a more detailed assessment is planned in partnership with the RAN to measure performance in challenging environments with different water types and turbidity. Gate One approval is expected in 3Q2020 with module deliveries expected by 2023.

SEA 1905 replaces SEA 1179 Phase 1, which had originally intended to provide a service life extension to the Huon-class MHC but this was scrapped in favour of moving towards using unmanned and autonomous solutions for its MCM capability.

Published: 10 October 2019
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[*] posted on 24-10-2019 at 04:18 PM


NEWS FROM EWC: Navy Improving Mine Warfare Capabilities to Counter Russia, China

10/23/2019

By Connie Lee


Photo: iStock

ANNAPOLIS, Md. The Navy must improve its mine warfare capabilities as it faces an era of great power competition, said one top Navy mine official Oct. 22.

China and Russia are the worlds most advanced and prolific miners, with Iran and North Korea not far behind, said Sam Taylor, mine warfare senior leader at the Navys program executive office for unmanned and small combatants.

These adversaries have large quantities of advanced mines that "absolutely have the ability to impact what we want to do, he said at the National Defense Industrial Associations annual Expeditionary Warfare Conference in Annapolis, Maryland. It's critical that we get after it and stay after it."

To do so, Taylors office has resurrected the mine warfare readiness effectiveness measurement program, or MIREM. That will be used to test new tactics, techniques and procedures as well as kits to develop mine warfare doctrine, he noted.

For example, this year the Navy tested kits and systems such as the airborne laser mine detection system and airborne mine neutralization system with partners in the Baltics. The service employed 15 unmanned underwater vehicles and 70 divers, which found 16 World War II remnant mines in German territorial waters while prepping for amphibious assault.

It just goes to show you the threat is real, it's out there, he said.

Additionally, the Navy has a stock of aging legacy systems that include mine countermeasure ships and MH-53 helicopters, he noted. To replace them, the service wants to turn its attention to integrating new unmanned mine-clearing systems into its fleet, he noted.

These things are beyond their service life, beyond what the Navy has paid for them to do, Taylor said. They are all on a path to sundown, no later than 25 all of these legacy assets will be gone.

One upcoming effort includes the mine countermeasure mission package for the littoral combat ship. The service plans to have 15 vessels dedicated to mine countermeasure missions, with nine on the West Coast and six on the East Coast, he said. All will have a mine countermeasure mission package.

It is modular. It is something that could be removed and put on another vessel, he said. But the Navy has made the decision to dedicate those to an LCS hull.

The service has a total of 24 mine countermeasure mission package purchases accounted for in the future years defense program and is in the process of deciding where the additional packages will go, he noted. The Navy has tested out the MCMs on ships such as the USNS Hershel "Woody" Williams.

It can fit on any vessel that had the size to take it on and the ability to ... power it, Taylor said. The Navy is in the middle of testing these other vessels of opportunity and [determining] what are the things we need to learn, the [tactics, techniques and procedures] we need to develop, the things we need to have ready before we were to embark it on another ship.

Moving forward, Taylor said he wants industry to focus on technologies such as over-the-horizon communications systems and automated target recognition.

Ultimately, the service wants a UUV that can prowl under the water searching for mines, determine if it has found one through the employment of an onboard artificial intelligence system, verify it on spot and then neutralize it, he said.

That's the coin of the realm, he said. That's ultimately where we're going.
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[*] posted on 19-11-2019 at 08:53 AM


DSEI Japan 2019: IHI unveils autonomous underwater mine-detection system

Gabriel Dominguez, Chiba - Jane's Defence Weekly

18 November 2019


The AUV prototype unveiled by Japanese company IHI at DSEI Japan 2019 is designed to detect mine-like objects and others at various depths and transmit data in real time via a semi-submersible ASV. Source: IHS Markit/Gabriel Dominguez

Japanese company IHI unveiled an autonomous underwater mine-detection system at the 18-20 November DSEI Japan 2019 defence exhibition in Chiba.

The system, which comprises two different unmanned vehicles, is designed to acquire, process, classify, and relay information about "mine-like objects, among other things, to the mother ship.

One of the elements comprising the system is a 5 m-long autonomus underwater vehicle (AUV) that can reach a top speed of 4 kt, has an endurance of up to 24 hours, and can operate at maximum depth of 200 m, 600 m or 3,000 m, depending on the configuration.

In its standard configuration the AUV, which weighs 990 kg and is 690 mm in diameter, is equipped with a side scan sonar, a multi-beam sonar, and a digital video camera, but additional systems and sensors are also available depending on the requirement, a company official told Jane's . Navigation is enabled by a combination of GPS/INS and Doppler Velocity Log (DVL) as well as by ultra-short baseline and "sea-floor acoustic lighthouse" systems, added the official.

After detecting a potential mine, the AUV automatically transmits the collected data - including images of the object as well as its exact location - via an acoustic modem to the second component of the system, a semi-submersible autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) featuring a periscope antenna, which then relays the data to the "mother vessel" through wireless LAN.

(255 of 351 words)
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