The SWEEP minesweeper system – designed to defeat the threat of underwater sea mines and safely clear sea lanes – has recently proven its capabilities during two weeks of cold-weather sea trials say DE&S.

“Developed by Atlas Electronic (AEUK) as part of a £13 million contract, the autonomous vessel can pull three coil auxiliary boats behind it, with each emitting magnetic, electric and acoustic signals that can detonate a variety of mines. SWEEP is a complimentary system used to deal with mines that cannot be dealt with using traditional mine-hunting tactics and, having already proven to be capable of defeating the threat of modern digital mines in normal weather conditions, cold-weather trials were recently conducted to ensure its capability.”

Barry Miller, MHC team leader, said:

“Minesweeping has a long history of use as part of a mixed mine countermeasures capability, complementing mine hunting in difficult environments. The UK is currently trialling a ‘toolbox’ of autonomous mine hunting and minesweeping modules hosted on unmanned surface vehicles. This successful trial of an innovative and autonomous minesweeping capability in extreme weathers means we are a step closer to delivering a truly transformational capability to the Royal Navy.”

These latest trials were used to test the system’s cold-weather performance and help to inform the UK’s future unmanned minesweeping capability.

“The system was tested against a number of performance requirements, for example magnetic, acoustic and electrical influence generation, how well it cleared mines in sub-zero temperatures, whether the autonomous system could successfully avoid other vessels and the overall system performance in colder conditions that could be experienced for military operations.”

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How realistic is it to deploy all mine counter measure work from a Bay type or t31 and do away with specific mine hunting vessels? Did anyone know?

Levi Goldsteinberg

Suppose these things are why we aren’t hearing anything about replacements for Sandowns or Hunts

Mark B

Sorry but I would say these are the replacements 😊

Not only that but this is probably an intermediate stage. Ultimately it will be condensed down to just the sensors and the active parts probably moving around independently like overblown torpedoes. Still controlled remotely.

There will still need to be humans. Just a different set of skills.


Yeh, I think so. They have been looking at these types of system for getting on for 25 to 30 years. I remember seeing the remains of a remotely controlled MCM system piled in the corner of a boat shed that had served in the Gulf after one of the Gulf Wars. I am pretty sure it was the 1991 conflict but my memory is getting a bit fuzy around the edges as to which war! It’s me age, yer know!


Pretty significant, if off topic.

I expect about 50 to be built and the USN to retire CG47s and early ABs en masse as they join the fleet.



We’re moving away from a lot of capability concentrated in a relatively small number of large and expensive hulls towards a networked and distributed concept of smaller units…


They want 10 ifrigates in the first order. They are also looking to extend the Cg47s and DG51s by at least another 10 years.
If T26 is in service by then they could revisit especially as they are estimating the cost of a FREMM with Govt Supplied Electronics at 1.2 Bil dollars. Thats not much less than a T26!


Hi GB. That WAS the plan to extend all ABs and modernize about 12 Ticos but in a pretty radical turn around this spring the USN has decided against it. I think they’re planning to go all in on the distributed warfare concept – There is even a new recommendation to drop the carrier force by 3 that came out last month – I think I posted it somewhere around here. Survivability issues are driving much of this IMO. These new FREMMS are going to be packed to the gills from what I can see weapons wise. The Zumwalts… Read more »

Mark B

The Russians and Americans are going to spend a load of cash on this type of stuff. Perhaps we should have some way of countering it?


The FREMM is not going to replace a DG or CG. It will have 32 VL cells and a 57mm gun. Its more of an upgunned LCS replacement (which has not been a great project for the USN) . Early ABs are a nightmare to work on and maintain. All sorts of things are breaking on them and its not cosr effective, without a Life Ext to keep them going. That said Pork Barrel politics will come into play and no matter what the USN wants it will be overturned by congress who want to keep jobs in their districts.… Read more »


Hi GB, sorry! didn’t see this till now. As usual you make excellent points. I don’t think the USN is trying to replace the ABs with the new FFGs. I believe building (far) more than the stated 20 (I’ve seen a number at ~ 50 bandied) will allow the service to more widely disperse its assets IAW it’s new distributed approach. The Flight 1 ABs we are about to retire in mid-decade along with the Ohio class SSGNs are going to take a h*ll of a lot of VLS tubes out of the fleet and there is currently no way… Read more »


Yep… Army Combat boats pulling noise makers and magnets etc for shallow water work at the top of the NAG.
It was thought up and put together and then deployed in weeks few

Daniele Mandelli

Shouldn’t these augment rather than replace? The RN will still need its clearance divers, unless they plan on getting rid of that branch too?

What spare escorts will we have to deploy these systems from?

Smells of cuts to me and a chance to make a nice manpower saving for 1SL.

Any MCMV experts to correct me?


They can and do deploy remote systems from the Bay class. CDs can use boats to get to the target area or they go by helo.
Something like a Bay is ideal for the job. Failing that an Oil Rig Support vessel STUFT with the gear in containers on the cargo deck.


A large, heavy, slow, magnetic, noisy bay class. Perfect for clearing mines in the Suez. Ofcourse, if one of the three are available at that point.


Which is why the Bay deploys remote systens from outside of the mined area. So it doesnt need to go near it.

Failing that the whole lot goes on a load of flat bed trucks, much like FSU does now and they drive to the shore line and deploy from there.


It does make sense to use a Bay class, for unmanned vessels. I think this is down to the floodable well deck which make handling the larger ones a lot easier.
Perhaps a well deck would be a requirement for the Sandown replacement especially if they’re looking at from a dedicated mothership point of view.

Mark B

I would stick my neck out and suggest that “Mother” ships stuffed with autonomous vehicles are part of the future


Something along these lines with the Venari design as mothership

Mark B

Hi Daniele, throughout history new tech has come along which in theory replaces people. In reality we have more people employed now than at any point before – just in different jobs. People will always be needed – maybe further from danger but they will always be needed. I don’t think it has anything to do with cuts. Why would you put people in harms way unnecessarily? I had occasion to look at the spec of a Type 42 recently. Described as a Guided missile Destroyer. Effectively 270 crew and 2 Sea Dart missiles. Now we have Type 45 with… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Hi Mark.

It will be a cut if the manpower from 13 MCMV vanishes!

I totally get that the new autonomous systems can be deployed from a STUFT or a RFA. My concern is the Bays are in rather short supply, along with every other vessel.

Maybe the STUFT as Gunbuster suggests is a cheap, reliable option that would not cost the earth and the RN can be in more places at once by buying more than 1!!

Don’t recall how many Sea Dart the 42s had but it was more than 2!!! I know you jest.


Mark B

Hi Danielle,

Admittedly I was looking at Sheffield which was the oldest.

If you are simply looking at Manpower then you could argue it would be a cut although I would point to the people employed at Atlas Electronic (AEUK). Also with a shortage of manpower in the RN would those people not be redeployed.

We could also increase the number of units considerably.

If we are going to take Autonomous vehicles seriously then they will need their own transport. Perhaps we can look forward to Boatcraft Carriers tied up at Portsmouth.


Daniele Mandelli

I certainly hope they will be re drafted.

If these are indeed the future I hope the RN follow the US lead and have many more cheaper, smaller vessels.

I’d agree with your comment top of thread about mother ships, I just worry a precious T31 or Bay end up being used.

Glass Half Full

Perhaps a Glass Totally Full perspective but the RN has an option when replacing Hunts and Sandowns. It could go down the path of a BMT Venari-85 type vessel, or something similar to the new Dutch-Belgian vessels. Or it could instead add more T31 to support MCMV in additional to other roles, albeit unlikely to be on a 1-to-1 basis. This would enable far greater flexibility and capability across the fleet by using a light frigate platform. The issue with a modern MCMV for the UK is that its largely dedicated/limited to that role as we don’t need more OPVs;… Read more »

David Flandry

Early ones had 22, later ones had 40. But some were deployed with only 2, two, missiles towards end of their lives,

Daniele Mandelli

Well I never. I’d heard of T22 with 8 Seawolf but was not aware of that fact. Thanks.


Ahh… But less crew does save in the long tern. Less people in the RN mean less of a pension bill which is a huge drain on the budget.

Inverse to that though is less crew decreases survivability during action damage. You need a minimum number of crew to fight and fix the systens.

Thats the balance.


Do these fit in the type26 and type31 mission bays?