Unmanned minehunting vessels will enter frontline service in March, say the Royal Navy.
Specialist autonomous kit, branded under the name ARCIMS, has now been handed over into military service and will be on live operations from March, according to this Royal Navy news release.
“Sailors trained in this of type mission will be stationed at HMNB Clyde, where the remotely operated kit, including submersibles and boats designed to hunt down mines but also analyse the oceans and sea floor, will be deployed from.
Initial operations are now being carried out by Project Wilton, the name for the Royal Navy’s unmanned mine hunting and survey endeavours. Wilton currently have three boats – two remote controlled and the other manned – as well as multiple underwater vehicles.”
According to an MoD statement:
“Collectively, they can search for, hunt and finally destroy mines faster than the Royal Navy’s Sandown and Hunt class ships, and they also have the added benefit of keeping the sailors required to operate them out of harm’s way. Modified versions of the same systems are also being looked at to carry out survey operations such as those performed by HMS Echo.”
The craft are not replacing currently in service vessels but are instead complementing them.
In 2016, ARCIMS took part in Exercise Unmanned Warrior in Scotland, when the Royal Navy invited Atlas Electronic UK to demonstrate its capabilities with more than 50 participants from the MoD, industry and academia.
ARCIMS reportedly demonstrated robust operations in varying sea states in several high-speed missions—acquiring and transmitting real-time towed sonar data to the command & control station for what’s called ‘in mission’ analysis. To date 10 vessels are in service or under contract say the manufacturer.
Back in 2018, the new system was tested again, this time against a number of performance requirements, for example, how well it cleared mines, whether the autonomous system could successfully avoid obstacles and the overall system performance.
Commodore Mike Knott, assistant chief of staff Maritime Capability, said in the news release:
“With equipment and personnel now operating on the Clyde, the transition to widespread use of autonomous systems in mine counter measures (MCM) is becoming a reality and places the Royal Navy MCM community at the cutting edge.”
The US Navy also operate unmanned minehunters. The Fleet class unmanned surface vessel, also called the Common Unmanned Surface Vessel, is a class of unmanned surface vessels designed for the United States Navy to be deployed from Freedom and Independence class littoral combat ships and is intended to conduct mine and anti-submarine warfare missions. The first was delivered to the US Navy in 2008.