Thales has demonstrated the final component of its innovative mine countermeasures system – the remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROUV) – and its ability to neutralize sea mines.
The Maritime Mine Countermeasures (MMCM) program relies on the latest developments in autonomous technologies, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and uncrewed systems to handle challenging operational scenarios as defined by the French Navy and the Royal Navy.
The first two prototype MMCM systems were delivered incrementally following at-sea qualification in conditions up to and including sea state 4 (wave heights of 1.25-2.50 meters, according to the Douglas sea scale).
The successful trials were conducted with representatives of the French Navy, the French defence procurement agency, the Royal Navy, the UK Ministry of Defence and OCCAr.
The sea trials demonstrated the system’s ability to relocate and identify sea mines, and the remotely operated underwater vehicle successfully installed exercise charges on a bottom mine and a moored mine so that the neutralization cycle could be completed.
The demonstrations were conducted in realistic conditions at sea, with the Thales operations center in Brest, France, controlling the systems remotely and performing the functions of the Portable Operation Center (POC) with the support of personnel from the Marine nationale.
Thales believes this latest technological achievement demonstrates its expertise in naval systems engineering, high-performance sonars, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and autonomous technologies, and demonstrates the ability of its M-Cube mission management system to integrate a range of different types of sub-systems.
The ROUV promises to redefine the mine countermeasures concept of operations by ensuring naval personnel remain outside the mine danger area. Human operators rely on advanced systems to detect, classify, locate, identify and neutralize even the most sophisticated and best concealed mine threats with a high level of precision and reliability. A latest-generation processing and visualization system powered by artificial intelligence algorithms performs real-time and/or post-mission analysis of the sonar data.
Integration of the first series-produced subsystems within the overall system of systems has begun at the Brest site, with delivery to the Navies scheduled for early 2024. These subsystems include uncrewed surface vehicles deploying either the TSAM towed array sonar or the remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) for mine identification and neutralization.
Mission preparation, monitoring, control and evaluation are conducted by operators in the Portable Operation Center (POC) or the Shore Operation Center (SOC).
Since the end of 2021, the Navies have been conducting operational evaluations, and will take delivery of the six series-produced systems in 2024 and 2025.
“Ever since the contract was signed in 2015, our teams and partners have been investing their skills, energy and passion to ensure that Thales can step up to the technological challenges of this extraordinary program. We are fully committed to providing the French Navy and the Royal Navy with the most innovative technologies in order to protect their strategic assets and keep naval personnel out of harm’s way. These latest milestones offer further proof of our unflagging determination to meet these goals,” said Gwendoline Blandin-Roger, Vice President, Underwater Systems, Thales.