Motor boat Hussar can be sent off on missions, using a series of small, hi-tech boats trailed behind it to detonate the latest underwater explosive devices – potentially clearing minefields en masse.
The Royal Navy last conducted real-world sweeps off Iraq in 2003 using remote-controlled boats, while HMS Ledbury conducted the final run out of traditional sweeping gear off the Isle of Wight in 2005. More than a dozen years later, the Royal Navy is on the cusp of returning to sweeping – but using autonomous boats, keeping sailors out of harm’s way.
“In the digital age, magnetic minesweeping was becoming obsolete – it goes back to World War 2. It could not deal with modern, digital mines,” explains Cdr Mark Atkinson who oversees providing the mine warfare branch with new kit.
According to a press release issued by the Royal Navy, modern mines can be sophisticated enough to take out a specific ship or class of ship if they know its signature – the magnetic, electric or acoustic field or noise generated by a vessel as it moves through the ocean.
Hussar is an 11-metre-long ‘mother ship’ which is followed by the 21st-Century sweeping system, a series of small ‘coil auxiliary boats’ or CABs. The CABs are designed to replicate ship signatures to trigger the mines – and use lessons learned from IED blasts on vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan to deflect and dissipate any resultant blast so that damage is minimal.