On behalf of the French Defence Procurement Agency (DGA) in France and UK MOD’s Defence Equipment & Support organization, OCCAR has awarded the Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) contract to Thales, in collaboration with BAE Systems and their partners in France (ECA Group) and in the UK (ASV, Wood & Douglas, SAAB).
Initiated in 2012 under a cooperation agreement between France and the United Kingdom, the MMCM program develops a prototype autonomous system for detection and neutralization of sea mines and underwater improvised explosive devices (UWIEDs).
The MMCM program is a key milestone in the transformation of mine countermeasures capabilities and the future operational use of unmanned naval systems. This major French-UK program will develop a key new industrial capability for underwater and robotic detection.
Split equally between the two nations, the program will rely on innovations with an advanced level of technological maturity.
The MMCM contract includes three stages, starting with a first phase for design. The next stages, which are subject to contract options, will manufacture and experiment the future mine countermeasures capabilities of both France (SLAM-F future mine countermeasures system) and the United Kingdom (MHC – Mine countermeasures and Hydrography Capability). The program will deliver an autonomous, remotely operated mine countermeasures solution.
As part of the MMCM program, Thales is providing systems to both the French Navy and Royal Navy for two years of evaluation testing. Each system will comprise a USV (Unmanned Surface Vehicle) equipped with an autonomous navigation system, an obstacle detection and avoidance sonar, a threat identification and neutralisation capability based on ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles), a T-SAS (Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar) and AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles).
The geolocated AUVs will use the latest-generation synthetic aperture sonar SAMDIS with multi-aspect functionality for improved classification. They will perform their tasks autonomously with control from a host ship or shore-based station via high-data-rate communication links.
The systems incorporate state-of-the-art technologies including very high-resolution multiview imaging sonars and sophisticated analysis tools to provide unparalleled levels of performance in automatic threat recognition and classification.
The project will be delivered by an integrated team including personnel from Thales in France and the UK as well as BAE Systems.
French and UK contractors involved in the MMCM system include ASV Ltd for the supply of the surface vehicle, ECA Group for the supply of the underwater unmanned vehicles, SAAB for the ROVs and Wood & Douglas for communications.
Thales will deliver the integrated Portable Operations Centre (POC) solution, which will incorporate command & control by Thales and BAE Systems. BAE Systems will provide the Mission Management System, managing the command and information systems, as well as the ROVs, the virtual visualization and experimentation suite.
The launch of this program builds on the Lancaster House defense and security cooperation treaties signed in November 2010 and follows on from the Franco-British summit held on January 31st 2014.
Source: Thales press release, adapted.