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UK Orders Three Autonomous Minesweepers

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ARCIMS / SWEEP (courtesy Atlas Elektronik)

Published Jan 19, 2021 2:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

The UK's Ministry of Defence has ordered three new autonomous minesweeping systems from Atlas Elektronik.

The $34 million deal for three production units of the Combined Influence Minesweeping (SWEEP) system will give the Royal Navy its first autonomous minesweeping capability and will allow personnel to neutralize mines from a distance. The system’s technology can defeat modern digital sea mines, which can detect and target ships and submarines passing overhead.

“This innovative system has come about through close collaboration between DE&S, industry and the Royal Navy," said Barry Miller, the head of the Mine Hunting Capability (MHC) team at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S). “This cutting-edge technology will allow UK personnel to carry out their duties in a safer environment and provide enhanced protection to both military and commercial vessels.”

Each SWEEP system includes an autonomous surface vessel (ASV) capable of towing equipment to generate magnetic, acoustic and electric signatures that mimic passing ships and activate different types of sea mines. The system is controlled by a portable command center which can be based on board or on land. The Royal Navy has already conducted extensive practical trials with the system. 

The contract follows after the announcement in November that the UK has signed a joint agreement with France for three autonomous maritime mine countermeasures (MMCM) mine hunting systems from Thales. 

“This next-generation autonomous technology will be instrumental to our goal of protecting the safety and security of our personnel, while also reaffirming the UK’s unwavering commitment to improve the safety of international waters,” said Defence Minister Jeremy Quin.

The first system will be delivered in late 2022, and will enter operational evaluation before entering service.