The Franco-British Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) project which aims to build autonomous minehunting system today reached the manufacture stage, with a £184M contract awarded to Thales UK.
The investment will see around 215 jobs supported in the UK at Thales sites in Templecombe (Somerset) and Plymouth as well as in the wider supply chain including L3 Harris in Portsmouth, Stonehaven in Aberdeen and Alba Ultrasound in Glasgow, the UK MoD said in a release.
When operational, the new system will give the Royal Navy increased capability to remotely detect and neutralise sea mines. It is designed to potentially replace conventional crewed minehunting vessels, such as the Royal Navy’s Hunt and Sandown-class ships, with autonomous systems.
The UK element of the production contract was negotiated by the Mine Hunting Capability (MHC) team at Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S).
The contract sees the purchase of three sets of equipment. Each set comprises a portable operation centre, an autonomous surface vessel, towed sonar and a mine neutralisation system.
Sea mines constitute a growing threat and users of this system will be able to detect and neutralise mines from miles away ensuring they can keep vital sea lanes open with much-reduced risk to ships and the lives of sailors.
DE&S CEO Sir Simon Bollom said: “This ground-breaking technology brings with it a step-change in capability for the Royal Navy which is a bold step into the digital and autonomous world. I’m incredibly proud of DE&S and the Royal Navy team who have worked tirelessly with our French colleagues to deliver on this contract.”
The MMCM programme was set up to deliver cutting-edge minehunting equipment to the navies in the UK and France. The programme contract will be placed by the Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation (OCCAR) acting as the Contracting Management Authority on behalf of both nations.
The first equipment is due to be delivered in late 2022. It will commence operational evaluation prior to entering service with the Royal Navy.