Unmanned Mine Countermeasures Update

The Royal Navy released a news piece this week about ongoing trials of unmanned mine countermeasures systems.

The evolving development of such sophisticated unmanned underwater systems in support of survey and mine countermeasures has been a regular at TD towers, looking back there are nearly a dozen articles in the archives covering the subject.

So with the new information its time for a recap and update.

Background and Challenges

Mines can be incredibly effective weapons, not only can they destroy shipping they can deny large areas of sea to all traffic, choke off ports, restrict the flow of traded goods and generally have impacts wholly disproportionate to their cost, which is usually measured in peanuts.

In 1991 an Italian made Manta mine laid by Iraqi forces, costing the princely sum of $25,000 put a billion Dollar US Navy Aegis destroyer, the USS Princeton, out of action. On the same day, the USS Tripoli was very nearly sunk by another. They are the IED of the sea.

The Royal Navy has traditionally placed a high value upon its MCM capabilities, it is rightly considered as one of the leading organisations in the field, if not the leader. It is also easy to forget that the Royal Navy has maintained a permanent MCM presence in the Gulf with an RFA Bay class ship operating in a ‘mothership’ role for quite some time, doing their work with little fanfare or recognition.

Minesweepers are an enduring image of the battle against mines but the the last combined influence sweep system deployment was in 2005, the MCDOA provides a great look at this, click here to view. The Minewarfare and Clearance Diving Officers’ Association has a wealth of great information about the subject in general and you can lose many hours on their great website.

There is also a great deal of expertise in mine countermeasures in other European naval forces, the legacy of two major conflicts means that even today, sea mines in European waters remain a very real threat to shipping and sailors.

The rise of unmanned systems to counter mines has come about for a number of reasons, primarily the desire to remove sailors and divers from the mined environment as much as practicably possible.

Royal Navy diver with Divex equipment
Royal Navy diver with Divex equipment

When looking at the mine countermeasures capability it is important to start with mission requirements and threats.

Expeditionary Missions, mines are a basic sea denial weapon, their objective is not necessarily to sink ships but deny movement. Clearing Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) and supporting amphibious operations are the most common expeditionary MCM requirement. The objective may not always be the complete neutralisation or disposal of all mines but to provide assured access to an acceptable level of risk. Accurate surveys will be required for most expeditionary operations as well, especially amphibious. (I will touch this point later, the synergy between survey and mine countermeasures)

National Missions, when looking at this subject we should not forget the legacy of old sea mines and other unexploded ordnance. Any new capability must still be able to counter these old fashioned but no less deadly threats. In addition, harbour and port clearance are national missions. Accurate ‘charting’ is essential to safe navigation and operations for both surface and sub surface equipment. This mission is carried out on a routine (the sea bed is constantly changing) and reactive basis.

Threats, the diversity of mine threats creates a significant challenge and so does the environment into which they are placed.

These environments can include the surf zone, very shallow water, shallow water and deep water.

Types of sea mineTypes of sea mine and environment classifications

Expanding these broad classifications based on water depth we might also include ports, offshore infrastructure and other man made environments.

Types of device include surface, anti invasion, buried, partially buried, moored contact, bottom influence, moored influence, floating contact and rising influence. These can range in sophistication from very simple WWI vintage devices with their Hertz horns to the latest mobile and intelligent devices that use a variety of initiation methods and means of detection to discriminate against low value targets, like minesweepers.

The ‘problem’ is therefore a bloody complex one.

The increasing demand for petrochemicals has driven the industry to exploit reserves in inhospitable environments and it is this has has created a sophisticated industrial and scientific community where one of the outcomes has been underwater robotics and survey technologies.

The mine countermeasures field both contributed to this and exploited it.

This crossover between survey and mine detection presents obvious opportunities and the synergy between the military survey and mine countermeasures capabilities have been recognised for some time. Mine jamming, co-operating autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) and laser bathymetry are also starting to mature.

One of the most significant issues is classification of mines, once detected, and can be a time consuming process.

A significant problem is that of false target detection.

The sea bed environment of any large port or well trafficked channel is likely to be cluttered with all manner of debris and this dramatically increases the false target rate. This problem was encountered in clearance operations around Um Qasr where only the super human efforts of UK, US and Australian teams managed to work through the problem.

Research on the automated classification of threats continues to improve false target discrimination rates and speed the process up significantly. Target recognition and being able to discriminate a discarded grain sack or can of Coke from a mine might be relatively simple for the human eye/brain but for an autonomous system, it is very far from simple.

A wily enemy would exploit this classification slowness to slow down amphibious operations or port access, for example, by liberally seeding the sea bed with dummies.

The increase in throughput by virtue of using multiple autonomous systems combined with intelligent target recognition software is one counter to this tactic, meeting brawn with brains.

Once detected and classified the device has to be destroyed or disposed of and this was generally carried out by clearance divers.

The desire to remove the diver from the mined environment, as much as possible, has created a class of disposable one shot systems like SeaFox (more on this later)

In general, it is a sector of rapid technological change.

The current RN MCM fleet consists of the Sandown class (single role mine hunting) with the variable-depth multi-mode 2093 and the Hunt class (sweeping and mine hunting) fitted with the hull-mounted 2193.

Supporting NATO operations, amphibious operations, securing Sea Lines of Communication, providing harbour defence and clearing legacy munitions the current fleet (even accepting recent reductions) is highly effective.

Royal Navy Mine Countermearures Vessel HMS Brocklesby.
Royal Navy Mine Countermeasures Vessel HMS Brocklesby.
Royal Navy Sandown Class MCM Vessel HMS Bangor
Royal Navy Sandown Class MCM Vessel HMS Bangor

This post is a look at the general subject but with a focus on the unmanned aspects but if the international rules governing maritime mining take your fancy, have a read of this excellent summary at SLD.

I think it is important to pause and recognise the tremendous work the personnel in this branch do on a day to day basis.

Recent Operations

Iraq (Operation TELIC)

Existing ports have transport infrastructure, storage, berthing for deep draft vessels, material handling equipment and often a pool of organised labour, they are an obvious objective for any force. In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Operation TELIC, the port in question was at Umm Qasr. The port of Umm Qasr, before the conflict, was responsible for two thirds of the United Nations Food for Oil programme deliveries into Iraq, it was an important and somewhat unique location.

The port itself is divided into North, Middle and South with 22 berths and a range of cargo handling and storage facilities, some berths are also dedicated to bulk materials like grain. In to order to dock at Umm Qasr a ship would need to navigate 41 miles the Khor Abdallah waterway

Umm Qasr map
Umm Qasr map showing Khor Abdallah waterway
Umm Qasr port
Khor Abdallah waterway towards Umm Qasr port, Iraq

This presented a unique challenge, both inland and offshore waterways would need to be cleared before allied shipping and humanitarian relief deliveries could make use of the port. After many years of neglect and much of the damage from 1991 not repaired or cleared putting Umm Qasr and approach waterways at the centre of the logistic effort for the immediate aftermath of the invasion would present a range of big problems. One look at a map and the many of the problems with safe navigation, dredging and the sheer scale of the operation to make safe the area are obvious.

Complicating this already challenging task were brackish water conditions, variable tidal flows and poor visibility, hardly ideal mine hunting territory.

Operating in the area during this initial phase were two US Navy Cyclone Class patrol boats (USS Firebolt and USS Chinook) and two US Coastguard cutters (USGC Aquidneck and USCG Adak). Whilst on operations. all four spotted a number suspicious vessels and after holding them in place until daybreak decided to investigate, what they found was nothing short of incredible.

The tug Jumariya had a barge with carefully concealed mine storage and launching facilities and the Al Raya had disguised mines with a specially constructed stern flap for covert launching.

Tug Jamriyah and barge
Tug Jamriyah and barge
Barge Jumariya mine laying concealed doors
Barge Jumariya mine laying concealed doors
Barge Jumariya mine laying system
Barge Jumariya mine laying system


The Al Rayiah had also been adapted for minelaying

Tug Al Rayiah
Tug Al Rayiah
Tug Al Rayiah
Tug Al Rayiah
3 Cdo Brigade Op Telic
3 Cdo Brigade Op Telic on another mine launching vessel, a small motor cruiser

A day or two earlier and the next phase may have been very different.

Once the area had been secured the task of clearing the port and approach waterways commenced, the original plan called for the port to be clear and available for use within 72 hours, a significantly overoptimistic target, it would take just under ten days before first access.

Driving up from Kuwait was a combined force of Australian, British and US mine clearance specialists.

Australian Clearance Diving Team 3 (AUSCDT 3) was the only coalition unit with established harbour clearance SOP’s so they were tasked with clearing the berths and associated facilities at Umm Qasr to enable berthing of vessels. The Australian force also noted that US Navy MCM forces arrived without ammunition or explosives so had to be sustained by the Australian force. The US Navy team did not have any NBC equipment, again unlike the Australian and UK forces.

To provide some sense of the problem of demining a busy port as opposed to a pristine beach this quote from an Australian Army spokesman, Lt Col Pup Elliot;

If they find a can of soft drink on the bottom, they have to deal with that, look at it and make an inspection and at times they’ll find stuff that they may not be able to identify

Read more about the exploits of AUSCDT 03 at the RAN Clearance Divers Association here

The MCM Task Group consisted of 10 vessels, 5 from the UK On Call Force, 4 from the US MCM Division based in Bahrain and RFA Sir Bevidere in the MCM Command support role.

Whilst mine clearance work commenced at the port, the approach waterways would also need clearing.

Clearing these waterways involved a range of UN and USN forces, everything from the rapidly introduced SWIMS system to the hugely impressive CH-53 Sea Dragons

Mine Sweeper

Even the famous dolphins got a look in although there was (and is) much debate about their effectiveness.

Safe lanes were cleared by a multi vessel group as per the diagram below, with HMS Brocklesby leading and controlling SWIMS boats in front.

Umm Qasr lead through
Umm Qasr channel clearance

USS DEXTROUS acting in the role of Command MCMV plotted and reported seabed contacts to other vessels in the group who then investigated until the channel was widened.

HMS Roebuck would provide invaluable survey capabilities and was in fact the first Royal Navy vessel to dock at Umm Qasr

Rayal Navy Operations at Umm Qasr. Just outside Umm Qasr, on the Az Zubayr river, The Royal Navy continue to Minesweep and secure the area. Involved in the Operation, Minesweepers, Coastal Survey Vessels, LCVP's From HMS OCEANs' 9 Assault Sqn RM's and Rigid Raider fast boats, from 539 Assault Sqn RMs..There efforts have allowed RFA SIR GALAHAD to go alongside in Umm Qasr to deliver much needed stores and Aid..Pictured here, HMS ROEBUCK, a Coastal Survey Vessel, Patrols the river
Just outside Umm Qasr, on the Az Zubayr river, HMS ROEBUCK, a Coastal Survey Vessel, Patrols the river

Commenting on the task, HMS Roebucks commander said;

The last charts to be made in the area were over 40 years ago, so our biggest problem was to find out how accurate they were. The first few weeks work were very slow indeed because we tow our sonar behind us, so we don’t want to be the first to find a wrecked ship

Seafox, a UOR called  the Shallow Water Influence Minesweeping System (SWIMS) and the Royal Navy were instrumental in the clearance operations for Operation TELIC around Umm Qasr.

This initial channel and port clearance activity took only 4 days, investigated 450 seabed contacts and cleared 15 mines (which clearly illustrates the challenge involved with distinguishing bottom debris in a busy waterway with actual mines)

Once the mines had been cleared to an acceptable level of risk, it was time to open the port.

Although 12 tonnes of supplies reached Umm Qasr by truck, overland from Kuwait, the bulk of humanitarian supplies would be through the port and the delay in clearing the port and its approaches was contributing to rising tensions in the city. The first ship to dock was RFA Sir Galahad, Berth 5, with 232.3 tonnes of humanitarian supplies, gifted by Kuwait.

Leading the way for RFA Sir Galahad was the Royal Navy MCM Vessel HMS Sandown.

The Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Landing Ship Logistic RFA Sir Galahad (L 3005) arrives in the Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr delivering the first shipment of humanitarian aid from coalition forces. Sir Galahad, with a capability of carrying approximately 400 troops, with a beaching capacity of 3,440 tons, is the first ship to deliver coalition humanitarian supplies in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is currently loaded with 232,300 Kg. of supplies for the people of Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multi-national coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, and end the regime of Saddam Hussein
The Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Landing Ship Logistic RFA Sir Galahad (L 3005) arrives in the Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr delivering the first shipment of humanitarian aid from coalition forces.

Joining SWIMS and Seafox unmanned systems, the REMUS 100 also played a role in operations around the port, supporting clearance divers, although these were not obtained by the Royal Navy until 2004. These initial operations using REMUS 100 were carried out by the US Navy

REMUS Umm Qasr
REMUS 100 Umm Qasr

Iraq in 2003 might reasonably be called the coming of age for unmanned mine countermeasures, more on SWIMS, Seafox and REMUS 100 later.

Soon after, the Fleet Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Unit (FUUVU) was established to develop the use of unmanned systems in shallow and very shallow water, leading into the Mid Term MCM Coherency package to upgrade the command systems on the Sandown class vessels and integrate the unmanned systems across both fleets.

Libya (Operation ELLAMY)

8 years after Operation TELIC unmanned systems had matured a great deal, Seafox and REMUS 100 were still in service with the Royal Navy, MHPC was moving forward and the REMUS 600 had been introduced a couple of years earlier.

Operation ELLAMY, Libya, was to prove to be another opportunity for the Royal Navy to demonstrate unmanned MCM.

Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1) formerly known as Mine Countermeasures Force Northern Europe (MCMFORNORTH) and before that as Standing Naval Force Channel (STANAVFORCHAN) was formed in Ostend on 11 May 1973. It is one of two standing mine countermeasures forces maintained by NATO. Area of operations includes the waters of Europe from the North of Norway to the Mediterranean and from the Irish Sea to the Eastern Baltic Sea although it has also operated beyond these boundaries. As with most NATO forces, operational command rotates through the contributors to the force, these being Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, and United Kingdom (providing ships on a continuous basis) and Denmark, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania as other commitments permit.

On the 4th of February 2011, Dutch Commander Herman W. Lammers took command of SNMCMG 1 from the Polish Navy. The month after, HMS HMS Brocklesby joined the rest of SNMCMG1 (ships from Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Poland) for  Exercise Noble Mariner around the Straits of Gibraltar. Noble Mariner involved 20 warships from 11 different NATO countries and was designed to test a task group sent to keep sea lines of communication free in disputed waters. HMS Brocklesby identified and recovered five dummy mines in her area of operations, which is the most recovered by any ship in SNMCMG1 during this exercise, MCM really is an RN speciality

On conclusion of Noble Mariner the next task for SNMCMG1 was Operation Active Endeavour

There was obviously a great deal of capability being exercised and trained in the Mediterranean at around this period, which would come in handy!

On the 4th of May 2001 the Dutch Ministry of Defence announced that HNLMS Haarlem was commencing mine countermeasures in the waters off Misrata;

As of today, HNLMS Haarlem will start searching for mines in the waters off the coast of Libya. Any detected mines will be destroyed by the Dutch minehunter. The deployment takes place at the request of NATO. On Friday 29 April, a number of sea mines were discovered in the approach to Misrata by French frigate, causing humanitarian shipping to be obstructed. Two of these mines have been cleared in the meantime. The search for the exact location of the third mine that was observed is still under way. HNLMS Haarlem will join the search for this explosive device as soon as an order to this effect has been issued by the Commander of the NATO mission.

Although HNLMS Haarlem is only now joining the sea-mine detection and clearing effort, it had been in the area for some time. The Dutch government decided on 22 March that the Netherlands would participate in the NATO enforcement of the UN arms embargo against Libya. The minehunter has been deployed in this operation, which is called Unified Protector, since 28 March.

HNLMS Haarlem will hunt for mines by mapping the area with the aid of hull-mounted sonar. When a mine is detected, it can be detonated by the Seafox Combat, a remote-controlled mine-destruction charge. Minehunters of the Royal Netherlands Navy can be deployed worldwide for the detection and destruction of explosive devices which obstruct the safe passage of shipping. In addition, they are frequently called upon to clear explosives from the First and Second World Wars.

On May 3rd the Guardian newspaper in the UK reported that no aid vessels had been able to enter or leave the port area.

“We know the only way to keep Misrata alive is to keep the harbour open,” said Hafed Makhlouf, the controller and ship pilot of the port. “Gaddafi realises this too, and knows that the only way to extinguish the revolution is by starving the people. According to Makhlouf, the rebels had received a tip on Thursday from Zleten, a town 30 miles west of Misrata, that three small microbuses had been spotted dropping off a crew of frogmen near the harbour. Makhlouf said he passed on the warning to the two Nato warships stationed off Misrata. At 4.30am on Friday, while he was asleep on the chair in his office, his radio crackled to life. It was Nato, saying it had spotted four small dinghies approaching Misrata at speed.

“I asked Nato to act as I was sure it was a plot to destroy the warships, or other ships coming into Misrata,” said Makhlouf.

He was right. The loyalist naval team was carrying several floating sea mines aboard two of the dinghies, which they sank about 1.5 miles offshore, directly in the shipping lane to Misrata. Nato said it had intercepted three mines, and disposed of them.

The MoD then released a news story about mine clearance off Libya.

Using her sonar and underwater mine disposal system, Seafox, HMS Brocklesby successfully located and destroyed a buoyant mine just one mile (1.6km) from the entrance to the harbour. The mine, containing more than 100 kilogrammes of high explosives, had been crudely placed by pro-Gaddafi forces using an inflatable dinghy to transport it out to sea.

The combined efforts of the mine countermeasures vessels, HNLMS Haarlem, HMS Brocklesby and BNS Narcis, had effectively countered the Libyan port denial activity allowing the humanitarian aid ship Red Star One to deliver 180 tons of much needed aid and rescue many migrant workers from the city.

Libyan mine discovered off Misrata by the Royal Navy
Libyan mine discovered off Misrata by the Royal Navy

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Lieutenant Commander James Byron, Commanding Officer of HMS Brocklesby, said;

In helping to keep the port of Misrata open we are ensuring the continued flow of essential medical assistance and allowing the evacuation of innocent civilians from the country. This is exactly the kind of operation my crew have trained for: dealing with live mines posing a threat to legitimate shipping within sight and range of shore bombardment. My team have handled themselves superbly in the execution of this mission reacting stoutly to the very real threat posed by rockets and artillery ashore.

HMS Brocklesby, one of the Royal Navy’s Mine Counter-Measures Vessels, has destroyed a mine laid by pro-Qadhafi forces in the port of Mistrata on the Libyan coast.  Image shows the Seafox Under Water Mine Disposal System being launched from HMS Brocklesby.  HMS Brocklesby is the fifth of the Royal Navy's eleven Hunt Class Mine Countermeasures Vessels (MCMVs) and is a member of the Second Mine Countermeasures Squadron based at Portsmouth.  HMS Brocklesby’s primary role is mine-hunting.  Her hull and most of the superstructure are constructed from GRP that is both non-magnetic and strong enough to withstand the explosive shocks likely to be encountered in a mine environment.  The ship's noise signature has also been reduced to a minimum by tuning and matching all the main machinery and by taking great care with all resilient mountings.
HMS Brocklesby, one of the Royal Navy’s Mine Counter-Measures Vessels, has destroyed a mine laid by pro-Qadhafi forces in the port of Mistrata on the Libyan coast. Image shows the Seafox Under Water Mine Disposal System being launched from HMS Brocklesby.

A second mine was disposed of by another NATO vessel, either HNLMS Haarlem or BNS Narcis, and one remained at large for a short time.

BFBS released a great video covering HMS Brocklesby’s return to Portsmouth after operations off Libya.

The Royal Navy minehunter HMS Brocklesby has returned to its home base at Portsmouth, after spending six months clearing mines off the coast of Libya. The vessel was initially deployed as part of a NATO mine countermeasures group before it was deployed to Libya. At the end of April, Brocklesby found and destroyed a buoyant mine laid in the port of Misrata by pro-Gaddafi forces in a bid to stop humanitarian aid from reaching the port. The efforts meant that the MV Red Star could enter the port and evacuated more than 700 civilians injured during the fighting. A navy spokesman said that Brocklesby’s actions were the first time that a Royal Navy minehunter had been involved in live mine clearance operations within range of hostile artillery and rockets since the campaign off the Al Faw Peninsula in 2003 during the second Gulf War. He added that it also saw the first operational use of the Seafox Mine Disposal System against live ordnance during conflict. The minehunter then spent its last few weeks patrolling and mine hunting in the waters off the Misrata coastline as the threat of mines and waterborne IEDs remained high, the spokesman added. The role has now been handed over to Faslane-based HMS Bangor

HMS Bangor was also to deploy later, the video below from NATO provides a good overview of both UK and Dutch capabilities.

These videos demonstrate the evolving role of unmanned systems but clearly, the emergent technology demonstration programmes are promising more.

It also demonstrated that MCM operations sometimes need to be carried out in hostile environments with a real threat of shore based attack.


The Future Mine Countermeasures Capability (FMCMC)

After the UOR infused MCM operations in Iraq had concluded a programme to look at the next stages of MCM was launched.

When almost every programme had to be prefixed with the word future, mine countermeasures was no different. The Future Mine Countermeasures Capability (FMCMC) accurately predicted that the future of MCM was portable, offboard and dedicated systems, POD for short, able to carry out recce, hunting, sweeping and disposal tasks. This was aimed at addressing issues such as speed of deployment and cost where it was supposed to operate from the then proposed C3 class of vessels (Ocean Capable Patrol Vessel) in the Sustained Surface Combatant Capability (S2C2) / Future Surface Combatant programmes.

It was intended that FMCMC would be demonstrated using existing MCM vessels and matured, before transitioning to the C3.

Mine Countermeasures, Hydrographic and Patrol Capability (MHPC)

In 2009 The Future Mine Countermeasures Capability (FMCMC) was absorbed into another programme, Mine Countermeasures, Hydrographic, and Patrol Capability (MHPC)

The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) confirmed that the Mine Countermeasures, Hydrographic, and Patrol Capability (MHPC) would eventually replace the existing MCM and Survey vessels. Subsequent agreements with the French have also seen a commitment to a joint programme.

It also became clear around this time, as the FMCMC had suggested, that mine countermeasures would be about removing the need for clearance divers as much as possible, reducing the need for dedicated platforms and increasing deployability.

I think it also signalled the end for highly specialised, low magnetic, quiet and ultra expensive MCM vessels, maybe not soon, but definitely on the horizon.

These goals pointed to compact deployable set of equipment that could be operated at stand off distances from any vessel, within reason.

Despite this, many concentrated on the Patrol aspect of MHPC, suggesting small warships such as the Austal Multi Role Vessel (MRV) and BMT Venator.

The approach by the Royal Navy was (and is) one of sensible conservatism and low risk

Ofboard and unmanned systems would be developed, proven and deployed from existing specialised MCM vessels whilst still retaining the capabilities of those specialist vessels, hull mounted sonars for example.

If offboard systems could be proven as effective from any vessel then the platform from which they were operated from could be considered seperately.

It also recognised that now matter how unmanned and autonomous systems developed the skills of the clearance diver would still be needed in some circumstances and the tremendous advantages of the human eye/brain would take some time for a machine to best.

Finally, MHPC recognised the convergence of MCM and Survey, much of the equipment used in MCM operations had been developed for offshore survey and engineering, the REMUS 100 being a very good example.

October 2012 saw the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) announce five short listed candidate companies to enter the next stage of the harmonised UK/French maritime mines countermeasures programme. For the French, it is the Système de Lutte Anti-Mines – Futur (SLAM-F) and the UK, Mines Countermeasures, Hydrographic, and Patrol Capability (MHPC).

Although these two existing programmes had differences there was thought enough commonality for a joint approach, managed by OCCAR and agreed during the recent Anglo French defence accord.

Both are concentrating on creating a system of systems that will support off board detection, classification and neutralisation of a range of mines.

The short listed companies entered the ‘invitation to participate in dialogue’ phase.These were Atlas Elektronik, Thales, ECA Robotics, QinetiQ and Ultra.

DCNS, Thales and ECA had previously partnered to work on the SLAM-F programme and produced the Espadon (Swordfish) demonstrator that made use of a 25 tonne 17m vessel called the Sterenn Du (Black Star) that could launch and recover three smaller ECA unmanned vessels, each with a specific role called ALISTER 9, 18 and 18-TWIN

This programme is still ongoing.


Bluebird Electric have very good coverage of the SLAM-F programme, click here to read more.

Further technology demonstrators that were being used to inform MHPC were Flexible Agile Sweeping Technology (FAST), Littoral Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (LUUV), a combined command system and the Tactical Maritime Unmanned Air System (TMUAS).


Underpinning these demonstrators is work to provision bandwidth and the enabling command and control infrastructure.

The original goal was for a new class of vessels to be in service from 2023 but unsurprisingly, this no longer the case.

It seems the current objective is to reconfigure and life extend the 8 Hunt class vessels (their large aft deck lends itself well to reconfiguration). A series of trials and demonstrations will be a precursor to refitting the Hunt class from 2018 onwards.

It would also appear that a new future platform is even further away, the last I read indicated a class of eight 90m steel hulled vessels for MCM and another two similar vessels for survey. Both would have a speed of 18-24 knots and space for up to 21 mission packages, those mission packages being, of course, ISO container based.

We do of course have one or two elections and defence reviews between then and now so as ever with future programmes, nothing is certain.

[UPDATE: With the recent patrol vessel order it would seem it is now just MHC]


Shallow Water Influence Minesweeping System (SWIMS)

The Shallow Water Influence Minesweeping System (SWIMS) was designed to operate in the shallow waters in the south of Iraq and was obtained as an Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR)

SWIMS consists of a towed magnetic and acoustic source, a tow/power delivery cable, a power conditioning and control subsystem, and an external or palletised power supply. Its small size and reduced weight require minimum handling equipment, and it is deployable from a helicopter or surface craft by two personnel. 12 QinetiQ modified remote controlled Combat Support Boats (CSB) were also used to tow Australian Defence Industries (ADI) Mini Dyad System (MDS) and Pipe Noise Makers (PNMs) ahead of the RN minehunters as part of the SWIMS payload. It is worth noting that the system demonstrator was available within 3 weeks of order placement, a truly remarkable feat.

Australian Defence Industries are now Thales Australia and this system have evolved into a comprehensive package called the Australian Minesweeping System (AMS)

SWIMS Iraq 2003
SWIMS Iraq 2003

SWIMS comprised two main components, the towing boat and payload.

The towing boat was a rapidly modified Combat Support Boat, in service with the Royal Engineers. Modifications included the telemetry and remote control equipment, additional power generation and power distribution equipment.

The SWIMS payload consisted of multiple towed bodies in an array that was designed to simulate the acoustic and magnetic signature of a ship, and would thus, fool the mine into detonating, possibly destroying the unmanned system rather than a real ship.

In addition to floats and connecting equipment, the payload array consisted of two towed bodies, a Pipe Noise Maker and Mini Dyad.

Pipe Noise Makers are simple and robust systems that do pretty much as the name suggests, make noise.

Pipe Noise Maker
Pipe Noise Maker

Mini Dyads sound small, at 7.7m long and weighing in at 1.6 tonnes, they are not.

They are simply a steel tube containing multiple steel and ferrite disc magnets with mutiple Mini Dyads arranged to simulate different magnetic signatures

ADI Mini Dyad
ADI Mini Dyad

The MoD selected the ADI system because it was the only one available that did not need additional power and could operate in shallow waters. The system was ordered in late December 2002 and delivered in late January, they were hired for 12 months and the acoustic generators purchased outright.

One complete array comprised 2 Mini Dyads and 2 Pipe Noise Makers.



After witnessing the Hydroid Remote Environmental Measuring UnitS (REMUS) 100 in Iraq the Royal Navy, via QinetiQ, obtained two in 2004 to enhance the then emerging research effort into very shallow water unmanned operations. The Royal Navy at the time, had nothing that could operate in very shallow water, the existing ECA Robotics PAP 104 Mk 4 and 5 underwater vehicles being too large.

[Click here to see ex RN PAP Mk1 for auction and here for an amusing story of ‘one of our yellow submarines is missing’]

After a round of successful trials another 10 systems were purchased.

This video from 2012 shows Royal Navy personnel using a REMUS 100 on exercise in the Gulf

The Remus 100 is very low cost, less than a quarter of a million pounds each, and was seen as a cheap de-risking stepping stone towards the future capability.

Hydroid are now owned by Kongsberg, click here for datasheets and further information

The Royal Navy contracted with Kongsberg to upgrade the 12 in service REMUS100 systems to include a BlueView Technologies 3D MicroBathymetry system, Kongsberg Geoacoustics GeoSwath interferrometric sonar (datasheet), modular endcaps and digital ultra short baseline (USBL) acoustic positioning systems.

Some were also fitted with an Inertial Navigation System.


The Seafox is a one shot mine neutralisation system, simply put, it swims to the mine and blow itself and the mine up.

Seafox Mine Disposal System
Seafox Mine Disposal System

In 2003, to support operation in Iraq, the Royal Navy leased a handful of Seafox vehicles and supporting systems from Atlas Elektronik for use in Iraq with HMS Blyth and HMS Bangor modified to operate them.

Seafox has been continually developed by Atlas and now comes in two variants (plus a training version), Combat and Inspection. The Combat variant is armed with a 1.4kg shaped charge, the Inspection variant isn’t. They can be distinguished by colour, black = combat and orange = inspection.

Launching is carried out using a crane attached cradle and recovery uses a basket, again attached to a crane.

Seafox recover
Seafox recover

It is a very simple, robust and effective system.

The Mk II variant introduced a capability to destroy floating mines and the latest version has a a safer fuse system if  it needs to be recovered without being fired.

The inspection variant has a 360 degree sonar and internal navigation system for autonomous operations

Read more about Seafox here


2009 saw the introduction of the larger REMUS 600 Underwater Unmanned Vehicles (UUV), the news release

Hydroid, LLC, a leading manufacturer of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), announced today that it was awarded a multi-system, multi-year contract by the UK Ministry of Defence to supply the Royal Navy with REMUS 600 AUVs. The contract specifies for the supply of two REMUS 600 systems complete with operating, deployment, recovery and support equipment, and training and associated logistic support. The contract also exercised options for two additional vehicles and ancillary equipment. The REMUS units will greatly enhance the Royal Navy’s mine countermeasures capability within the littoral area, providing a detailed maritime survey, mine detection and classification capability in the 30m to 200m depth range.

Hydroid has teamed with Babcock Design & Technology (BD&T), a business unit within Babcock Engineering Services, a U.K. based leading Support Services company with offices in Rosyth, Scotland and Weymouth, Dorset. BD&T will assist Hydroid by providing programme and risk management, trials support, ship installation design and safety assessment as well as assistance in providing U.K. based training and logistical support for the five year duration of the in-service support phase.

“The proven technology of Hydroid’s REMUS system will greatly enhance existing Royal Navy MCM capability,” said Phil Jenkin, Mine Counter Measures Project Manager of UK Ministry of Defence. “Rather than replace existing systems, the REMUS 600 AUVs will add new capabilities and act as a force-multiplier, allowing existing assets to conduct operations independently. Hydroid offered the Ministry of Defence the highest confidence in meeting the Royal Navy’s technical requirements and achieving the best acquisition and whole life value with its REMUS 600 vehicles.”

With both the REMUS 100 and REMUS 600 system in service a two tier capability was evolving, the two vehicles working  together, one in shallow water and one, deeper.

The video below shows the different methods of launch & recovery and a good overview of general capabilities, launch and recovery of unmanned systems is one of the main development areas of MHPC, improvements to allow operations in higher sea state have obvious benefits.

Transitioning the system safely through the splash zone is far from a trivial task.

The Royal Navy opted for a simple and robust crane and cradle launch and recovery system but whether this remains in the mature system is open for debate.

Hydroid REMUS 600 MCM Recce UUV Launch and Recovery systems model
Hydroid REMUS 600 MCM Recce UUV Launch and Recovery systems model
Hydroid REMUS 600 MCM Recce UUV Launch and Recovery system on board RN MCM Vessel
Hydroid REMUS 600 MCM Recce UUV Launch and Recovery system onboard Royal Navy Hunt Class MCM Vessel

By this stage it was clear that this kind of technology was relatively easily integrated with existing vessels, transportable and with the potential for being platform agnostic, much of the promise and PowerPoint was actually being realised.

Hydroid REMUS 600 MCM Recce UUV System Components
Hydroid REMUS 600 MCM Recce UUV System Components


Also in 2012, the COBRA neutralisation charge was introduced to service.

COBRA is a demountable EOD disruption device designed to be placed in close proximity to a mine or unexploded munition and the launch vehicle withdrawn to a safe distance.

A buoy is released with an RF receiver that receives the firing signal from an operator, up to 22km away.

The charge is initiated by a number of other methods including shocktube and acoustic.

COBRA Mine Countermeasures
COBRA Mine Countermeasures
COBRA attached to a Seafox
COBRA attached to a Seafox

The COBRA makes a lot of sense given the cost of the Seafox, instead of being a disposable one shot system, Seafox is now capable of being reused, much cheaper to blow up a COBRA than a Seafox.

Read more about COBRA at ECS Special Projects, the people who developed it.

Fast Agile Sweeping Technology (FAST)

QinetiQ and ADI put together the SWIMS system in record time but obviously some refinement was needed.

In 2007 QinetiQ, Atlas Elektronik and the EDO Corporation (Atlas Consortium) were awarded a £4.3m contract from the MoD to develop;

A mine counter measures (MCM) flexible agile sweeping technology (FAST) technology readiness demonstrator (TRD) that will ultimately enable MOD to put a combined influence sweep (CIS) replacement into service using FAST Technology. Key objectives for this programme include de-risking the key technologies for a unmanned surface vessel based MCM influence capability and the development of technology and system integration maturity, using a design and build TRD programme. Quantified mine sweeping performance and effectiveness against mine threats in a realistic scenario will be demonstrated along with deployment, recovery and capture of a FAST unmanned surface vessel from an MCM. The development of an open architecture approach to the FAST components and the transfer of MOD mine sweeping research knowledge to the UK industry supplier base are also important.

Shortly after contract award EDO Corporation was acquired by ITT, eventually the defence business was spun out to Exelis.

Work continued but in 2009 QinetiQ sold its interests in this sector to Atlas Elektronik for £23.5m.

Hamilton Waterjets published a short summary of FAST in 2009 including a nice visualisation of a pair of FAST boats on the deck of an RN MCM Vessel. Hamilton Waterjets provided the propulsion systems for Combat Support Boats and it was a modified Combat Support called a Logistic Support Boat that formed the basis of the FAST boat. Similar information was also found in the June 2008 issue of Marine News, click here to view.

After a critical design review trials took place in 2011.

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By 2011 Atlas had evolved the system into something called the  Containerised Integrated Mine Countermeasures System (C-IMCMS)

The C-IMCMS (Containerised Integrated Mine Countermeasures System) consists of a port-able combat management system as well as the analysis software CLASSIPHI for post mis-sion analysis of side-scan sonar data, the unmanned surface vessel (USV) FAST, the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) SeaOtter Mk II and the mine disposal system (ROV) SeaFox. The system was deployed from the shore; operations on board various ship types are also possible.

C-IMCMS (Containerised Integrated Mine Countermeasures System)
C-IMCMS (Containerised Integrated Mine Countermeasures System)

Some components of C-IMCMS are already in service with the Royal Navy, Seafox and the Classiphi software for example, others not, the Sea Otter.

Atlas Elektronik Integrated MCM System with FAST
Atlas Elektronik Integrated MCM System with FAST

Another sweep system was also considered, the Kockums Self Propelled Acoustic Magnetic Sweep system or SAMS

This is an impressive system and when deployed in multiples can rapidly clear large areas. It can also be used to reduce the number of devices so that the more sophisticated detection and disposal activities can proceed at a quicker pace.

It is not clear what sweep technology FAST used, the Excelis Modular Advanced Remote-controlled Surface Sweep System or those from Thales Australia.

Modular Advanced Remote Controlled Surface Sweep System
Exelis Modular Advanced Remote Controlled Surface Sweep System

The ADI (now Thales Australia) Advanced Minsweeping System combines acoustic, magnetic and  Electric Potential (UEP) / Extremely Low Frequency Electric (ELFE) sources that produce ship like signatures.

AMAS Combined Sweep Schematic
AMAS Combined Sweep Schematic

AMAS Towed Body Generator 01 AMAS Towed Body Generator 02The towed bodies generates power for the acoustic and electrical sources so no additional power generation is required.

Modern mines have the ability to distinguish older non combined sweep signatures, an acoustic signal with no accompanying magnetic signature is immediately detected as a sweep system and given a good stiff ignoring. Combined influence systems solve this by carefully tuning all sources into a single signature, very cunning.

Recent Developments

DSEi 2013

In September 2013 at the DSEi exhibition in London two of the short listed companies showed off their offerings, Atlas Elektronik and Thales

Both manufacturers seemed to have similar approaches, small craft that could be operated in either manned or unmanned modes and both able to launch and recover a range of unmanned underwater systems for sweep, recce and disposal of underwater explosives and mines.

Thales showed the HALYCON system and Atlas Elektronik, ARCIMS.

It must be said that these system did not suddenly appear and have been the product of many years evolution.

Atlas Elektronik

Atlas Elektronik showed ARCIMS. ARCIMS has been developed over quite a long period from the various systems such as FAST and SeaFox. Atlas teamed up with the makers of the Bladerunner speedboat, ICE Marine.


The datasheet for ARCIMS is here

ATLAS Elektronik Offboard Systems showing ARCIMS
ATLAS Elektronik Offboard Systems showing ARCIMS

As can be seen from the graphic, Atlas envisaged ARCMIS having the ability to tow sweep equipment and deploy its own unmanned systems (note the slight change from above, where the small craft looked like FAST)

Note also, the lack of MCM vessel.

An autonomous means of launch and recovery of small unmanned underwater systems or ROV’s was absent, unlike the more mature Thales Halycon although during the show, Atlas hinted at undisclosed customers trialling the system soon, no prizes for guessing this would be the Royal Navy.

Thales Halcyon

Thales had partnered with Autonomous Surface Vehicles in 2012, a UK company specialising in unmanned surface craft.

The Royal Navy also buys surface targets from ASV and their C-Sweep was seen as an integral element of the Thales solution

ASV C-Sweep Thales HALCYON
ASV C-Sweep Thales HALCYON
ASV C-Sweep Thales HALCYON under way
ASV C-Sweep Thales HALCYON under way

The C Sweep datasheet can be found here

The video above, from Thales, shows the general concept of operations for Halycon, operation from a shore location and using a Remotely Operated vehicle for inspection and disposal. The ROV shown is from Saab, the SeaEye Falcon, equipped with a multi shot disposal system called the multimine neutralisation system, or MuMNS.

Saab SeaEye MuMNS
Saab SeaEye MuMNS

Both Halcyon and ARCIMS showed the concept of a small boat, able to operate at distance and deploy its own system. At a distance, does not necessarily mean at a distance from a minesweeper, it could be the shore or any vessel.


In February this year the MoD issued a £1.5m contract extension to Kongsberg (who now own Hydroid) for the maintenance and support of the Royal Navy REMUS 600 (RECCE) Underwater Unmanned Vehicles (UUV) out to 31st March 2016.

Whether this March 2016 date is significant or not is not clear but the obvious inference is that it is post SDSR 2015  and may indicate contract awards for MHPC.

September 2013 saw the Royal Navy purchase SeeTrack Military and SeeTrack Neptune licenses from SeeByte.

SeeByte’s SeeTrack Military software is an open-architecture platform solution enabling mission-planning, monitoring, post-processing and reporting of off-board assets such as UUVs and diver hand held system; it is now the tool of choice for sixteen of the world’s navies. SeeTrack Neptune provides a payload control architecture and real time autonomy engine for UUVs to plan and execute well known patterns of behaviour that expedite and optimise single vehicle and multi-vehicle operations. In other words, the operators plan for what to do and SeeTrack Neptune decides how to do it.

Read the  SeeTrack Military brochure here

SeeTrack software can be extended with modules, Change Detection operates in a similar manner to change detection software used in Iraq and Afghanistan to analyse changes in terrain features that might indicate mines. The Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) module automates the process of sifting through masses of information, recognising a mine and discarding seabed debris that is especially common in port areas or those with a lot of surface traffic.

SeeByte have some very interesting white papers on change detection and mission planning systems, have a read here and here.

In March this year the Royal Navy signed Memorandum of Understanding between it and the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) in Southampton to share research;

The Royal Navy does not currently have a mature UUV capability – but the work with the NOC will provide the basis for trialling and understanding how they can best be used. Plans are underway to launch two UUVs from Royal Navy warships – one will be launched from a survey ship in the South West Approaches near Plymouth and the other from a minehunter in the Mediterranean.

“We chose the survey ship and minehunter because they both work with similar equipment,” explained Nick Hammond, the Royal Navy’s Environmental Information Officer.” However the idea would be to have the UUVs on board the frigates which are the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare platforms. The information the UUVs provide would be essential to their operation and the aspiration from these trials is to demonstrate that UUVs would make a difference to anti submarine warfare.”

So although this article is primarily about mine countermeasures the agreement with the NOC is clearly being used to inform work on anti submarine warfare and the possibility of a Type 23 or Type 26 Frigate deploying underwater unmanned vessels in support of ASW is a glimpse into the future.

Latest News

The reason I have written this update was a news article from the Royal Navy that described the activities of the Maritime Autonomous Systems Trials Team (MASTT), known formerly Fleet Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Unit (FUUVU).

The motorboat Hazard – currently being put through its paces by a specialist team of sailors in Portsmouth Naval Base – can act as the ‘mother ship’ to an assortment of hi-tech remote-controlled and robot submersibles.

The article had two important things to note.

First, the craft is obviously the Atlas Elektronik ARCMIS, the one built by ICE Marine, that undisclosed customer really was the Royal Navy.

Motorboat Hazard
Motorboat Hazard

Second is the small ROV, although there is no autonomous launch and recovery system like the Thales Halcyon with its Saab Seaeye Falcon, the ROV shown is the Ocean Modules V8 M500 Intervention, click here for the brochure.

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The V8 M500 is a new design (2013) from Ocean Modules, a Swedish company that sell their products in the UK through Atlantas Marine in Somerset.

What is also interesting is that both the Atlas and Thales concepts use civilian ROV’s modified to carry disposal devices, in the video below, the V8 M500 is seen attaching an ECS Cobra device

Ocean Modules ROV and Cobra mine neutralisation device
Ocean Modules ROV and Cobra mine neutralisation device

The comments from one of those interviewed for the story are equally illuminating.

“What you can do with 40 men and women in a minehunter, here you can do with two or three sailors – and in a fraction of the time,” said CPO ‘Fingers’ Dumbleton, who’s spent more than 20 years in the mine warfare branch.

“It’s great that the Navy is taking a step in the right direction, looking at the technology out there, and seeing where we can use it in the future.”

The goal in the future is to fit this technology and unmanned sweep systems to a Hunt-class ship, but in the future the system could easily be run from any reasonable-sized warship, sent anywhere in the world in just 48 hours.

They will sit safely on the ship, or in a base ashore, and send unmanned surface vessels and their remote systems off hunting mines or gathering hydrographic data.

“The technology is proven. We’re taking it into the military realm. This will be the seafaring equivalent of the unmanned aircraft which have revolutionised aerial warfare,” said Lt Cdr Jack McWilliams, Officer in Command of MASTT.

“It takes the sailor out of the minefield, but we are not taking them out of the equation. You will still need individuals with specialist mine warfare and hydrographic skills, a human being to identify a contact, but they will be much safer, and this is a much more effective way of doing our job.

“This technology is fantastic – and we are right at the forefront of it. It is the future.”

All very interesting.


Unmanned systems are unlikely to completely remove humans from the mine countermeasures mission but the last decade has seen the technology advance to a level where we are now on the cusp of a genuine step change in the ability of naval forces to counter them.

The UK and other European nations have decided to concentrate on surface and sub surface systems instead of airborne  systems, many of which were US in origin and now largely stalled or cancelled. Across Europe, the USA and Australia there is actually a wealth of operational, scientific and engineering knowledge in the linked domains of hydrographic survey, autonomous underwater/surface vehicles, mine detection, classification and disposal. Many of these advances have been enabled by the civilian offshore exploration industry and looking at most current systems, especially for unmanned underwater vehicles, their origins are not military.

After a decade of development, multiple research projects and demonstrators, the Royal Navy is making solid progress towards an integrated mine countermeasures capability that can be rapidly transported to operational areas, deployed from non specialised vessels or the shore and operated at a stand off distance, thus, largely removing personnel from the danger zone.

In doing so, it has also created a UK industrial knowledge base that may well come into conflict with the OCCAR managed joint UK/French mine countermeasures programme. SLAM-F and MHPC may well have many common objectives but simply looking at the work done so far and the fruits of current demonstrators it is difficult to see much commonality in approach or component parts.

From a strictly UK perspective, what does seem to be emerging is a capability built around;

  • Two classes of autonomous Recce UUV’s, the REMUS 100 for very shallow water and REMUS 600 for shallow water/large volume search
  • A mixture of on-board and off-board data processing allied with powerful recognition and change detection software underpinned with high bandwidth communications networks
  • An air/road/ship deployable motorboat that can operate in manned or unmanned modes and used for both sweeping and localised detection from target ‘prospects’ being provided by the recce UUV’s and data processing engine
  • Neutralisation carried out using remotely operated tethered vehicles deployed from the motorboat such as Seafox, SeeEye Falcon or Ocean Modules V8 M500
  • Detachable and multi shot equipment like Cobra or MuMNS that do not demand the sacrifice of the unmanned system, i.e. the end of expensive one shot systems

With both the Thales demonstrator and the recent news article from the Royal Navy featuring offshore industry derived 6 axis ROV’s it begs the question of what might be happening with Seafox.

In the medium term it seems unlikely that the specialist MCM Vessel will go away, not least because they are flexible, multi-role and relatively cheap to operate. The hull mounted and dipping sonars in service from Thales, the newly implemented command systems and upgraded mechanical systems also point to a safe mid term future.

The graphic from Atlas Elektronik where ARCIMS and Seafox are operated from what looks very much like a Frigate is strictly ‘blue sky’

The Royal Navy has taken and will take a cautious approach, unmanned systems being integrated with existing MCM Vessels and most if not all the development money has been focused on this. Technology marches on however, the direction of travel is obviously platform agnostic and just perhaps, the days of the specialised MCM vessel are numbered?

It is encouraging to see just how far advanced the UK is when compared with other nations, the US included.

Whatever technology emerges, the real challenges will be with bandwidth, latency, mission planning, false alarm rejection, energy density for the platforms and getting all the systems to talk to each other, basic systems integration.

It must be remembered that the mine is not really the issue, it is the minefield. Defeating a minefield not only needs the technical ability to do so but to do so with enough confidence to reduce risk to acceptable levels. The definition of ‘acceptable’ is likely to change depending on mission, the risk appetite when dealing with a requirement to escort a civilian very large crude carrier might be completely different to that of conducting a small scale amphibious raid.

One significant challenge that is likely to emerge is the underwater IED, no longer do mines need to be made in sophisticated factories and one underwater IED in amongst a hundred oil drums/fridges/sacks poses a throughput issue only likely to be solved with multiple parallel detection devices, high power data processing and intelligent software that mimics the human eye/brain recognition capabilities.

It should also be noted that in all of these programmes, visions and technology fests, there is nothing apart from clearance divers for the surf zone, which means that UK Amphibious Operations could be hugely curtailed by a handful of surf zone mines or IED’s.

The reduction in manpower as described in the latest news article will no doubt be noted by many. With roughly 40 personnel per MCMV and 16 vessels, that is probably close to 2,000 personnel.

I think we can be confident the the Royal Navy will retain its cutting edge MCM capability in one form or another.

There are two other future trends to note, first, the convergence of MCM and Survey and second, containerisation of systems.

You didn’t think you were going to read a detailed Think Defence article without a container did you?

Atlas Elektronik Modular MCM control container
Atlas Elektronik Modular MCM control container


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April 19, 2014 6:46 pm

Another excellent, excellent piece. Good read, well done.

April 19, 2014 8:16 pm

I’ll have to read it again… my head is spinning. Too much information.

Atlas Elektronik obviously being the joker in the cards deck (as in being a UK operator; the Scandis just doing their thing and “exporting” to those who might need a solution… defence does not work like that, except when there is nowhere else to go… like in a campaign already started, without necessarily understanding the OpFor capabilities in detail… sure we can defeat them; but at what cost?).

Peter Elliott
April 19, 2014 8:35 pm

Begs the question: will the future budget actually generate any new patrol hulls or not? We’ve all tended to fall into the assumption that some sort of an oil industry type OPV will eventually be procured to host these systems. But the bean counters will say: if its truely platform-agnostic: why not just host it aboard your Frigates, Destroyers, LSDs and Solid Stores Ships?

And are they wrong?? Once the offboard technology is mature enough (2025?) Why not just bank hull and crew saving on the MCMs and use it to make sure the other surface ships continued to be funded to the numbers that we all want to see. If it works and it gets us a couple of extra combat ships, replacement LSDs, an extra SSS, or whatever isn’t that the best way?

April 19, 2014 8:49 pm

@TD excellent summary thank you
As i said on MP.net to you would love to see these excellent innovations and forward looking developments used on the new OPV’s ordered to provide an improved mine warfare capability to the RFTG at the expense of a few Sandown class minehunters that do not have the hull mounted sonars of the Hunt class.
Replace a few Sandowns with faster vessels to keep up with RFTG instead of Hunts all good
Forward deploy one instead of 2 Sandowns in gulf with greater onboard capacity for communications and support than current mcm vessels coupled with an expanded Bahrain onshore facility and we could yet see an additional Bay class LSD returning to UK and the RFTG
Looking further into future as per your article T26 asw frigates can embark these current and future caabilities in their mission bays enabling dedicated mcm vessels to be removed from the RFTG as the equipment matures
As i have stated on the current RN thread bringing down manning requirements for future vessels and deleting dedicated ships because we can now safely provide the requirement from our FF fleet can only enhance RN arguments in favour of expanded T26 numbers

April 19, 2014 9:10 pm

My view regards your OPV question is that we should be able to replace sandowns for T26 with unit costs coming down from increasing build numbers of T26 allied to reduced crew requirements of T26 compared to T23
Question is then how many individual OPV’s do you need?
My answer would be to replace current Rivers with the new OPV’s circa 2028 after T26 takes up slack of new OPV’s providing mcm requirements as they come online
Then provide a fleet of dedicated MHPC craft to replace capability of Hunts Clyde and Echo class with new design with lessons learned and capabilities required from currently planned 2028 replacement ISD of the MHPC vessels
As we move forward with increasing automation etc we may be able to add capabilities that are not currently envisaged on the new OPV’s
Could end up with @Repulses wish of a truly multirole Hi/Lo mix with increased numbers of high end but a capable multirole low end

April 19, 2014 10:08 pm

Love to see your thoughts on my comments

April 20, 2014 4:40 am

great article TD

I think with the rapidly evolving modular nature of both the sensors and counter devices that a future MHPC program very much points to a Commercial off the shelf design such as an OPV. Hopefully this will allow any future program to retain or perhaps slightly enhance the 8 vessels envisaged in the MHPC program.

April 20, 2014 6:19 am

How much standoff is enough? A few miles? Or over-the-horizon?

Over-the-horizon opens up some interesting offensive options against defended coastlines (e.g. to clear the way for amphib ops or naval gunfire support). But it seems like the French are the only ones looking at that with their large 25t Espadon USV (sea state 4/5 capable, 20nm stand-off from mothership, large untethered AUV that can stand-off an extra couple nm from the USV itself, 300nm range etc).

Better perhaps to stick with smaller motorboats like ARCIMS/Halcyon that are easily air/road/ship deployable and can be operated in larger numbers off more platforms, but can only handle smaller tethered systems and may not handle distances/sea states as well?

April 20, 2014 7:44 am

The discussion does not seem to allow for MCM in home waters/ our own ports. Clandestine mine laying is not too difficult. I agree that OPVs war-time value would be greatly enhanced if they (too) can host these solutions. If it is them/ the frigates alone, any expeditionary Op might be going swimmingly, while the homes ports become blocked?
– the Hunts got a life-extension as they are big enough (open deck is big enough?) to host these systems while still experimenting/ testing

April 20, 2014 8:49 am

Great update, thanks TD.

I don’t think we can see all this in isolation from the broader discussions around hulls numbers. Would be keen to see when trials start on the OPVs.

Whilst I wouldn’t rule out using a T26 as a mothership, but think in an integrated RFTG model they will have better things to do.

April 20, 2014 9:45 am

Very comprehensive and well constructed piece of work TD real quality.

The basing options for this ‘platform agnostic’ mines and lines capability will be manyfold I dont think many would disagree with that. I think the operational flexibility that may generate could be very useful in specific circumstances as well. I’m far from being convinced that an RFA with a couple of 11m boats standing off a few miles is the core of an expeditionary mine clearing capability. Especially if laden with booties, bombs or bullets crucial to the follow-on phases of an operation.

I can see a Bay class, as part of a KIPION deployment for example, doing route survey, a spot of hydrogaphy as well MSO perhaps with an eclectic mix of small boats, UAV’s and choppers….but we have only three Bays. Further I can see the T26’s carrying some form of offboard MCMW as a principle combat system…clearly its been designed with that in mind and is following the trail that the USN has blazed in that regard. They are not going to be so readily available, as noted elsewhere, to be spending 3 or 4 months at a time mapping shoals in the South China Sea.

One of the key goals with MHPC has been clearly to reduce the dependency on the minor war fleet and to make some of its capabilities more deployable and responsive. I think that the expectation that it will produce a multitude of systems over new hulls is going to be found out as hugely optimistic when, as x may put it, we suddenly find that we need the AS90 to be firing big bullets at people instead of towing the NAAFI wagon…as that was what we designed it for and we have nothing else to do that job.

April 20, 2014 11:52 am

I think if we do, when we do, go down this route whatever carries these boats will look more like Diligence than a frigate that is a certainty. What seems to be forgotten here or more likely not realised is that the hull is as much a part of the system as the weapons and sensors it carries. That ships end up the shape they do to perform a given task. Though ships have high utility (because they are self contained systems) the best designs are those designed for a single purpose. It is cheaper to build one hull to do one job than it is to build a hull and adapt for it for many purposes. (Further even within a standard class there are minor differences in equipment and layout which means you base line jack of all trades may well be mutated into something that might as well as have been bespoke from the get go,) so I note nobody here is saying we scrap F35b for A400m because both fly and the latter could munitions. To get value from this approach I can’t see it be worth it unless the ship can 4 of these boats plus additional a number of additional craft such as RIBs. Operating davits isn’t a complicated evolution but craning anything over the side isn’t a casual act.

As for replace Echo and Enterprise the ship that gets forgot is Scott. I think if there is any rationalisation, sorry cuts, it will be a class of two to replace both these types. Again Scott looks like she does because of the equipment she carries, the distances she travels and where she travels, and crew comfort. Echo and Enterprise aren’t large ships but they are significantly larger than the Rivers and that incoming BAE design. THey didn’t turn out to be bigger than the proceeding hydrographic vessels by accident. If we want to stay in the nuclear submarine game we need a first class hydrographic service. An OSV vessel jury rigged with a few million pounds worth of side scanning sonar isn’t the way to go about it.

April 20, 2014 11:56 am

Nice pic of HMS Scott showing her lines,


Look at the shape of the hull. And the height of superstructure. Interesting design.

April 20, 2014 1:32 pm

Excellent article TD,

If the systems are becoming more modular and open would it not be simpler to take the survey part out of the MHPC and then use hulls similar to these to use as MPC vessels




It seems to me that a COTS solution for survey would be the easiest and quickest to find (Leasing?) and give the other class of vessels more utility in an operation than trying to find a COTS to fulfill all the requirements.

April 20, 2014 2:26 pm

@DavidNiven: Apart from HMS Scott , I think the MHPC can work, though I agree with your choice of designs. Using a T26 design for a MHPC doesn’t make sense to me.

April 20, 2014 3:00 pm

another containerised unmanned system:

April 20, 2014 3:45 pm

Having a poke around a ship would require a working deck roughly 60 metres long to carry say 4 x 15m vessels (that is two on each beam) plus allow space for other toys. A River is 79.5m long.

Going back over this stuff (here and elsewhere) there is a little too much talk about or use of the word “shoreside”. The RN’s first concern should always be operations from the sea.

April 20, 2014 6:48 pm

Just adding to X’s comments, its not just design, but composition of the materials used in hull/superstructure construction… plastics and composites are used wherever possible, you cant have that on a T26.

Peter Elliott
April 20, 2014 7:03 pm


I think you may be missing the point slightly. The idea of this new technology is that the host ship doesn’t go into the danger area. The optionally manned plastic speedboats pulling strings of clever gadgets do that. The ocean going host vessel doesn’t. So it can be made of steel. And as long as its big enough to carry all the gubbins and has a means to get it in and out of the water doesn’t have to be a very special shape either.

Now something shaped like RFA Dilligence may be the ideal shape. And we may even get a couple specicially for the MCM mission. But some or of the kit can also be hosted off whatever happens to be around. Like a Bay, a SSS or a Frigate. Which is why I started wondering if we might not be getting large new class of ocean going patrol ships at all.

And becuase we live in the real world of money I wondering out loud which way I’d trade if invited by the treasury which programmes to cut and which to fund.

April 20, 2014 7:45 pm

@ P.E.

Oh, understood – I was still thinking old school.

I guess it is a mix, fewer dedicated hulls for more containerized systems, sounds like it would appeal more and save funds. But, would you be willing to put one of our few frigates into danger? In place of a dedicated mine hunter? Then again, Woodward took that risk in ’82… having a frigate with the equipment would make it safer, and be far more operationally expedient and quicker (wouldn’t have to delay until the ‘sweepers come – as was Woodwards’ reasoning).

April 20, 2014 7:52 pm

@PE/@Mike: Comes back to how many £350mn (minimum) frigates can the RN afford when a sub £100mn OPV would do nicely. Remember also we are talking about line of sight systems here, and a mother ship cannot be in two places at once.

A 2,000 to 3,000t OPV which can do 25+kts and 8,000nm would easily keep up with the RFTG with slower RFAs.

Peter Elliott
April 20, 2014 8:18 pm

I reckon it’ll be a bit of everything.

I think we will pick up a few £100m hulls of a vaguely OSV shape. And they will prove incredibly useful for all sorts of things. Including replacing Dilligence itself in the submarine tender and aflot repair business. But we will also deploy MCM kit from various other hulls. Especially if they are ones that have to be in the area anyway. All saves a bit of money and headcount towards funding other equally useful things.

Peter Elliott
April 20, 2014 8:26 pm

Careful not to equate tonnage to cost though – Dilligence is 10,000T

To be truely useful in multpiple roles we probably need to be thinking big and simple rather than small and simple.

April 20, 2014 8:34 pm

@ Mike

Nothing new about shore based or remote control MCM. Germans have been doing it for years.

April 20, 2014 8:41 pm

If we use something similar to Dilligence, then could we not make a commercial arrangement like we did with the Point class and just add the required specialists as and when required from the Navy.

April 21, 2014 1:04 am

@ X

In many ways it’s like using a storm shadow carrying A400m to supplement the F35 force. Not a bad idea for a force short on money and numbers.

with all the UUV’s and modular systems I see little benefit in a dedicated boat and I think its better to spend the money on the actual mine clearing technology than the ships. I see little benefit in choosing something like a navalised offshore supply vessel.

April 21, 2014 11:50 am

@ Martin

Yes it is I suppose. But only up to a point. There are reasons why ships as they are. What drives that shape is the ship’s main task. And if you are investing in building a ship, it is a considerable investment, you want that ship to spend the maximum number of days performing that tasks. The idea that the UK would find itself in a situation where a first rate ASW asset would sit off the coast (ha! shades of boarding ops of Iraq I suppose! :) ) controlling remote MCMs looking for say randomly seeded mines, by random I mean not in fields, is a bit far fetched. The idea that the UK with its history of fitted for but not with would procure more sets of this equipment than was absolutely necessary is a bit far fetched as well. That one design, MHPC, can meet the needs of diverse needs, replace classes of ships going out of service at different times, at times of differing economic health. and at times of differing security needs is a bit of a tall order. A base design may meet the needs of one niche over a few decades, like Leander, but that is one niche not many. And the constant in such designs is the hull not the equipment as the hull is as much a part of the answer as the kit. In Leander’s case good sea keeping in the North Atlantic. The base equipment changed. But even the equipment in Leander directed toward one purpose not many. I am no expert in naval architecture. But at least I am aware that there are more subtleties to the business than many here. The equipment described in TD’s article answers the needs of MCM. It is evolutionary not revolutionary, And I am sorry if my thinking and reading suggests to me that equipment will be best deployed on bespoke vessels built for MCM.

April 21, 2014 1:05 pm


Every time i come to thinking about MHPC i look at how cheap and reasonably effective the current River/Amazonas generation of OPV’s are, plus how specialist survey vessels and mine-hunters (at least currently) need to be and think to myself, although as you say the equipment is evolutionary not revolutionary, whether the idea of a common hull for all 3 jobs could actually be far more complex and thus potentially costly and counterproductive than we have been led to believe.

Perhaps we will see newer variants of the current OPV designs replacing the older ones and separate projects replacing the other capabilities in some other shape or form, be it a fleet of dedicated hulls, some large mother-ship design or simply bolt on equipment carried by other ships in the fleet.

For years MHPC has seemed fairly obvious in concept if not design, but i wonder whether that is either already being questioned or will be in the years to come.

April 21, 2014 7:41 pm

For a long time I think the open question mark was regarding the efficacy of the offboard MCMW kit. Would a few lads and a couple of pallets worth of gear actually be able to replace an expensively designed minehunter and her painstakingly trained crew. Every time you see a report on this though the overwhelming view seems to be yes it can.

With that becoming more and more the established fact the question shifts to one of practical deployment. Expeditionary MCMW has to be faster than it has been in the past. If you can get specialist hulls in early, as with Libya, or permanently forward deploy, as with KIPION, fair enough, but, when you cant the little hulls self-deployment abilities are inadequate. We haven’t the frigates for a Chris Craig “I expect you’d like me to zigzag about a bit” run these days.

Creating self-contained deployable capability packages that can work off an ISO container-based C2 hut plus a couple of road trailers, the same off a commercially chartered/borrowed hull or off the davits/deck cranes/well decks and integrated naval combat system aboard something gray-painted is the way forward. TD’s piece brings that conclusion together very neatly.

Deployment options are then the $64k question. For harbour/inshore survey we’ve used Transit van towed inflatables and REMUS100 for years. I remember one REMUS team picking up a UXB in the Mersey estuary back in the mid 2000’s. The above ship/shore agnostic approach just carries forward something we’ve done for a very long time.

Chartered workboats, civvy support vessels and the suchlike will be an option where appropriate. Personally I could see an addition to the Serco Denholm contract that replaced the RMAS to support local ports route survey etc where a mother ship is required.

Naval deployment options have been covered. RFA’s and combatants will be useful options, but, virtually all have other more important taskings…especially in an expeditionary scenario. It is inescapable then that a cheap-to-deploy platform able to support a couple of these MCMW capability packages as well as cover droggy and patrol taskings will be required. As mentioned in the earlier RN thread the new Rasmussen will be a ‘cheap’ hull able to deploy the units discussed above…and the sensor/mission suites to cover the wider mission brief. A perfect hull perhaps its not and, we may wish to do better for MHPC, but it ticks the boxes for £50mn a throw (less Stanflex modules) which compares well with the £30mn cost of the SRM’s back in the mid 90’s. As a starting point it shows what is possible and available today.

April 22, 2014 10:39 am

@ Jonesy

There isn’t much more than a few containers worth of MCM equipment in a Sandown or Hunt as it is. You make it sound as if there are huge quantities of antiquated valve and steam based technologies in these boats. RN MCM has always been cutting edge.

There is nothing new about containerised systems and that the world’s navies are still building bespoke vessels to perform certain tasks. I think it is symptomatic of the lack of understanding of these fundamentals that some here are able to explain away so easily the failure of SF300 to provide any savings or indeed flexibility.

“Creating self-contained deployable capability packages that can work off an ISO container-based C2 hut plus a couple of road trailers, the same off a commercially chartered/borrowed hull or off the davits/deck cranes/well decks and integrated naval combat system aboard something gray-painted is the way forward. TD’s piece brings that conclusion together very neatly.”

How will this work in practice? A navy’s role is action from the sea not the land. Reading this makes me think we are going to get the RAF to provide about 4/6 lifts of kit (at least if by volume if not weight everything from the boats (must be over 10 tons at least) to diving equipment to secure comms kit) to a friendly port. Charter a vessel. Shove the kit onboard irrespective of health and safety, efficiency, accommodation needs, and knowledge into a convenient hull and the sail off to do some very dangerous work without being worked up. You are ex-RN aren’t you? Do you think FOST exists just for shits and giggles? I appreciate that we mankind can control little buggies on Mars but I think you will find for the RN doing this work remote will still mean line of sight for a while yet for reasons of safety, precision, and maintenance of the remote boats. That means the vessel operating close to its daughter, . in dangerous waters because somebody has obviously mined them, and close to shore. A lot of what is said here seems to suggest me that many regard MCM as a follow on task. Yes there is always EOD work to be done. But it isn’t a follow on task. MCM vessels are warships expected to go into harm’s way. And though slow they aren’t fitted with a cannon and pintle mounts for GPMG just for decoration; they are there to give the vessel a level (all be it a low one!) of self protection. What I am reading from many of you runs contrary to the sort of thinking that saw the hydrographic vessels go from a white and buff paint scheme to grey.

Some thoughts concerning hydrographic work. All RN ships have always done hydrographic work it isn’t always work confined to the hydrographic “fleet” which exists to large scale planned surveys in detail. The RN already has a small hydrographic vessels HMS Gleaner which has been in service since 1983. One wonders if using small boats for large planned surveys was a goer why did the RN put Echo and Enterprise into service? Why didn’t they just charter some OSVs, slap some ISOs containers on deck, weld on some davits, and get to work? If you don’t know the answer to that question then…………


All of this talk reminds of something I read on another forum. An American said the Avenger’s were primitive because they were built from wood. Obviously he was unaware of the work of Dr Carl F Gauss.

For all what I have said I think a proto version of the MHPC already exists; well in size and engine fit out…………


April 22, 2014 11:33 am


‘How will this work in practice? A navy’s role is action from the sea not the land. Reading this makes me think we are going to get the RAF to provide about 4/6 lifts of kit (at least if by volume if not weight everything from the boats (must be over 10 tons at least) to diving equipment to secure comms kit) to a friendly port. Charter a vessel. Shove the kit onboard irrespective of health and safety, efficiency, accommodation needs, and knowledge into a convenient hull and the sail off to do some very dangerous work without being worked up.’

I don’t think I read it the same way, I was under the assumption that the Navy would own/lease a standard hull design (either MOTS or COTS) with a core crew for running the vessel (and therefore knowledge of said vessel) and then the mission specific crew and equipment being the modular aspect. I don’t think anyone was suggesting flying to the nearest port with the crew and equipment and hiring a barge, to go and do a de mining task.

The fact that the MCM is only fitted with a couple of GPMG’s and a cannon adds weight to the argument for just such a modular vessel. HMS Gleaner was constructed in 1983 (from your link) and although no one is saying dispense with the vessel (it could be used from the host vessel) modularity was not exactly all the rage in the 80’s.

April 22, 2014 2:19 pm

More the point I was driving at x, rather than steam and valves, was the specialist nature of the hulls and the cost and ship impact of the technology used in them. The 2093 sea chest etc…major ship impact to deploy a capability that simply no longer absolutely requires that specialisation.

I disagree that SF300 was necessarily a failure…rather that the strategic environment that evolved around it became one where modularity wasn’t required to a significant degree. You cant translate the lack of need to a failure of the capability. As I said elsewhere if you have role-change capability and never have to use it in anger that likely means you’re doing quite well on your mission planning and have a fairly benign environment. Having the ability to role-change though…to cover a shortfall in deployable assets is still a very useful enabling capability.

A navy’s role is action on the sea…not necessarily from the sea. There is nothing new with coastal forces operating from remote shore basing and there’s also nothing new in RAF lift supporting the fleet. The key driver to this is, as stated, selecting the appropriate deployment platform for the job.

Clearly there will be scenarios where the capability needs to be deployed into a high threat environment…so you would not consider a chartered civvy OSV for that work!. If, however, you wanted to do some inshore droggy work in some distant and strategically convenient spot, and wanted to involve the natives in the process to build up a bit of teamwork and trust, maybe you plan a deployment using a local deck with locals doing the driving and you do your work ups with them…and you save deploying an Echo class vessel that can be profitably used elsewhere.

If an ally has an LPD in theatre being used as an MCM command ship, and we have nothing nearby that can get to theatre for 2 weeks, maybe we tell the RAF to set up 4 lifts and we organise to deploy a capability package to the allied ship…just as has been done on a smaller scale at present with REMUS in the gulf. Again there is little new here save for the fact that the technology is getting bigger, more mature and more capable.

The point is to stress the platform flexible nature of the MHP suite of systems. Its not a case of having to use a civvy platform its a case that we CAN use a civvy platform….its not a case that we have to deploy on a frigate with a mission bay its a case that, if theres one available, we can deploy to a frigate. Its not a case that we have to deploy to a specially built multimission OPV-type hull but its a case that we may have one in an area of interest, for some other tasking, and it can take on the different role on a priority basis.

Bottom line its not about adding extra hulls that we know aren’t going to get funded…its making the hulls that are in the program, or rather will have to be in the program at some point, do more based on the maturing technology. MHPC will happen that much is certain. The question is whether we stick to inflexible single role hulls that become increasingly compromised in number and expeditionary capability by cost and performance, or, whether we leverage the technology we are championing to get hulls that can address the range of capabilities in the requirement.

If anything its the exact opposite of the view that MCM is follow-on. Its a recognition that MCM is crucial, needs to be accomplished at the rush in any expeditionary concept and cant wait until a gaggle of little boats can pootle their way into theatre if we dont happen to be lucky enough to have them forward based nearby or have the luxury of having dispatched them 2 weeks before the need arises.

As to practicality we come, again, to the new Rasmussen built with a multibeam mapping array for £50mn…imagine that patrol and hydrographic missions in a single hull…all it needs is an ability to deploy an 11m boat and its got a shot at the MCMW package detailed above…oh wait…whats that in the stern…its an 11m boat!. Clearly they have no clue what they’re about those Danes eh x!?.

April 22, 2014 4:10 pm

@X & Jonsey

Would the best solution not be a smaller but highly capable fleet of MCM vessels to conduct enduring ops like in the Gulf with a handful extra to respond to other situations (so around 8-10 vessels) AND have a small amount of extra kit packed into containers able to accompany an experienced team on-board a frigate, destroyer, LPD or whatever in those situations where mine clearance is needed just too rapidly to wait for a slower, dedicated MCM vessel to catch up?

Bare in mind i said ‘ideal’, so not necessarily likely or cheap!

April 23, 2014 10:19 am

@ Jonesy

I think we are going to have to agree to disagree.. My understanding of the navy’s needs appear to be fundamentally to yours. I am may be completely wrong on all of this.

Just because I mentioned the RAF flying in kit shouldn’t be interpreted on me belittling the RAF. How you jump to that one I don’t know.

As for “from the sea” my bad for not using the word “primarily”. Well aware thank you that the RN operate from the shore; I was lucky a few days back to spend a few hours with the Plymouth EOD team who definitely operate from the shore. Still I will stand by remark. I think you were taking my comment to the extreme because you needed to prove your point about modules.

You apparently don’t understand that the hull is part of the system, a very important part. I hope to see you in the next thread on FJ championing A400m as the future of British airpower. Or jsut shoving kit into the nearest EasyJet plane. Yes that sounds silly, but in effect that is what you are saying.

As for that Danish ship. As I keep saying there are reasons why we buy 3,500t hydrographic vessels, there are reasons why are OPVs don’t have certain features. And even were to replace plastic MCM vessels with a mothership and remote boats to get the most of them we would need a vessel that looked different from the ones I have just mentioned.

As I said you are ex-RN so i bow to your professional knowledge.

@ David Niven re leased hull

Yes I was being naughty and a bit extreme. But I think that is actually how many see all this modularity business. Load up plane to some distant destination, unpack like you are on holiday, and then casually go off hunting mines like it is paragliding or riding a donkey hoping that mines don’t themseleve casually go off. I also get the feeling here many regard MCM as a somewhat secondary and easy task which I think belittles the hard and dangerous work of the MCM squadrons. Lastly I don’t think many here quite see the MCM ships within a wider maritime security context. They may be slow but they additional hulls in the water, manoeuvre and presence are fundamental weapons of naval warfare and security, and security and warfare are a very broad spectrum. I think in future I will leave these fantasy MHPC alone; it can’t be too long before somebody suggests an inflatable hydrofoil…….

Let’s not forget that the RN currently has a civilian hull on charter, HMS Protector. That it was leased because of its hull design is something perhaps some here should dwell upon.

April 23, 2014 10:53 am

@ Chally

Yes. And that is where the RN is headed. I have nothing against module systems. As I said above the current MCM vessels don’t have more than a container’s worth of actually MCM kit within them. Further I am not per se against these little robotic boats either per se. The Sandowns were the most expensive ship per ton the RN has ever purchased. Most of the tupperware and non-magnetic fittings etc, were there because of the need to accommodate wetware, aka the crew. But as I have said to get the most of these boats you are going to need a ship laid out more like an OSV than an OPV. We can then take on a stage by saying the size and shape of an OPV (and mechanical fit out) intended to spend its life within a few hundred miles of home will be different from a hydrographic designed to operate far from home but also with a need for great precision in its handling. Where the ship is intended to go, for how long, and for what purpose drive the design. The rather crucial point missed by many here is that actually the hull and its design are the minority of the costs of a warship. I shall have to go away again to look at what I think is right because obviously my understanding appears to run against what the majority understand to be right.

PS: During the early Cold War somebody came up with the idea of pre-positioning hulls around the UK coast that just required cheap diesel engines and sweeping gear to be installed to be dropped in when there was a need. The idea never left the drawing board.

PPS: We need to come with an acronym that is the inverse of “fitted for, but not with”………

April 23, 2014 11:35 am


When I mention leasing I was thinking more in the way we leased the Rivers for the first ten years. It’s a good way of getting the hulls you need without the massive up front cost. I’m not suggesting we lease an off shore support vessel to fulfill the role, rather a fully designed hull for the task. Although I cannot see why some COTS systems cannot be used when suitable, such as the HMS Scott replacement ( I see no reason why that vessel needs to be a one of class design ).

Is there any reason why the same sea keeping attributes of an MCM would not be of benefit to an OPV/surveying vessel? Would a slightly larger vessel with a stern ramp for the deployment of boats etc be handy as a vessel for both paroling, MCM, surveying and as a platform for the Royals in the littorals, and in that case we can throw a flight deck for a helicopter in as well? Is there a reason if the the hull was constructed from the right materials (carbon fiber and vinyl laminate?)for the MCM role that we cannot find a vessel to do the above as well?

April 23, 2014 11:42 am


Seeing that a representative hull, the new Finnish Lerici derivative, is allegedly about £65mn a throw (supposedly 240mn Eur for a class of three) then I’d agree you’re not likely to be talking about a cheap solution!. If we planned to keep up the KIPION MCMW deployment, even with deployable ‘modules’ detailed in the original article, I’d imagine we’d be lucky to make do with 10 hulls. Then we’d still need to find something to replace the Echo’s, Rivers and Clyde.

…and we’re back to square one putting the minehunter and three dozen lads in the minefield instead of the robots.

April 23, 2014 12:06 pm

@ David Niven

I know what you meant. I am just bashing away between tasks. I don’t have to time to proofread stuff.

As for “I see no reason why that vessel needs to be a one of class design” re Scott actually that is my exact point. Scott is designed to take a certain set of equipment to sea for a certain duration manned by a crew of a certain size. The UK can only afford (only needs?) one. But such as the importance of the need that it requires a unique hull. We aren’t knocking out a consumer product. On a costs vs results basis, given the relative costs of designing a hull and the relative ease of production then why not a custom hull? Most large scale engineering projects are one off custom projects. Factories. Bridges. Ships even of the same nominal class have differences. This is why aircraft production at the high end is expensive because aircraft manufacturers are trying to replicate a product that is a high end extreme engineering over and over again. Similar I suppose to building nuclear submarines. Nobody here questions the costs of FJ design. Yet the relative low costs for custom hull production for one off or small classes of ship in toto are seen as wildly expensive. Single ships cost more than single aircraft because simply ships are very very much larger in comparison (and have to a wider range of things such as provide accommodation beyond their actual role.) The rough rule of thumb is that only 40% of an escort’s cost is the ship itself, while for an SSN is 90%.

What brought home to me the subtleties of ship design was this book,


You don’t get much more pedertain in ship design than designing ships for short journeys carrying self loading cargo (known normally as human bein’s), and cars. But each project described in that book had its own unique points to be addressed.

April 23, 2014 12:59 pm


Happy to disagree with you mate but I think there are areas here where we are actually viciously agreeing with each other.

With the ‘from the sea’ and ‘RAF lift’ issues thats simply a response to what seemed to be a view that ignored significant factors in fairly routine duties. I fully expected you to be aware of them and was uncertain as to why you seemed intent on downplaying those factors?.

The hull can be an important factor in some systems, but, you cover the main point with what you say about OSV opposed to OPV hull layout. I agree with that to some extent, but, there is nothing wildly exotic about a work deck and a substantial crane. The actual demands on a hull to deploy offboard systems are relatively modest when compared with VS drives etc. Precision navigation systems might be nice but, when your USV has multichannel GPS itself, not crucial. Secure comms…temporary fit…in most cases…how many auxilliaries/merchies have sufficient high power RF systems embarked to constitute a major EMI issue?. Crewing and habitability are a given. Handling and seakeeping…most commercial platforms have similar operating parameters to those in overall gray…again like you say an OSV over an OPV. survivability…how many ships are built to old-school Naval standards any more?.

With the Danish ship, again, I’m not saying its THE answer. I’m saying they’re building it and it has all the capabilities, in a small hull, to meet the requirement albeit, perhaps, to an inferior standard to a dedicated hull…IF the AUV doesnt make up the difference. A far superior hull might be a lesser-displacement derivation of the Norwegian Svalbard…a much more OSV-like OPV…big work deck…big crane…davits…hangar…spare berthing lots of room for future development yadda yadda. The actual hull, at this point, though is less than relevant. The point is that off-board systems ARE pushing the state of the art away from dedicated, inflexible, designs and, yes, ultimately the ‘proper’ MHPC might look somewhat different to a ‘conventional’ OPV.

Edit: Just read TD’s comment about ‘specialised vs big’ an I’d agree wholeheartedly…that needs to get into the MHPC lexicon somehow!.

April 23, 2014 1:06 pm


Are you talking of something like the Absalon class or smaller, or a COTS derived design?

The Other Chris
April 23, 2014 1:08 pm

Nice shots of of MV Geo Coral and MV Oceanic Vega. These are 3D Seismic survey ships, with the latter able to tow 20 streamers 8.5km long each and 1km wide. Not exactly mine or sub chasers, posted up to show some of the other sides of Marine survey. May spark ideas…


Together with a piece on power required to moved such arrays:


Would you class these vessels as COTS or bespoke?

April 23, 2014 1:24 pm

@ Jonesy

I know you are not talking about the specific hull. You are just using it as a vehicle to convey your ideas. I have been too many rabbit holes here where I have mentioned a class of a ship as an example (often the USN San Antonio’s) and then ended up discussing the real ship. I was using the Danish ship as a datum point for size. It gets confusing here at times. :)

I will try to distill my thoughts further……….

As Mark often says there seems to be school of thought that UAV automatically equals cheap and I think we are going down the same route here.

I am actually surprise by the lack of innovation in the hulls of these remote boats. And I think there size on the whole appears to be (slightly) too small. When I have looked at the problem my thoughts leaned towards something about 20t, semi-submersible, thrusters, triaman (with folding sponsons), and the ROV sitting roughly a midships entering the sea through a “moon pool” amidships in the main hull.

Davits takes top space. I am not sure a system of racks and hoists would be space efficient internally (a la Absalon) but they may be just to it all being a bit abstract. I think this remote botes will need a bit more care and TLC than the RIBs. And all this points to a ship that doesn’t resemble an OPV (or an OPV that is very large just for the sake of hull commonality. ) I can’t see it be worth the trouble is the ship doesn’t carry 4 of these remote boats.

Further it isn’t that undertaking any evolution is exotic. What I want to dispel the idea here that these systems can be taken and placed anywhere.

April 23, 2014 1:25 pm

I agree,

I don’t see a problem with using the matured technology from the off shore industry (or any COTS for any military application if it is suitable). From a point of view of the expiditionary and keeping up with the fleet, would an Absalon style vessel be a better bet for the MHPC?

When it comes to Diligence, Scott, Endurance and Argus I see no reason why we cannot use a COTS design and get a commercial arrangement like we did with the Point class ferries in place.

April 23, 2014 1:26 pm

TD – agreed ref commonality, however there is much more to it than the shape of the container (oh bad choice of word) that all the systems fit into – the hull is but one bit of the platform; if common systems are designed which can easily be installed in a variety of hulls without specific tailoring then the goal of commonality is retained. If you then want a long pointy hull for fast frigate work and a dumpy fat hull for oceanography and a plastic hull for mine clearance that’s no problem. Support commonality remains. And if you really really need a set of 20ft long sockets in the deck for ISO container modules to lock into then that’s just one more bit of commonality to add.

April 23, 2014 2:28 pm

@ David Niven re Abaslon

We are getting bigger and bigger, faster and faster, and costlier and costlier. We have had three MHPC “proto ships” mentioned mentioned now,

Knud Rasmussen-class
HSwMS Carlskrona

Do you see what I am on about? All in the quest for commonality and a supposed need for flexibility.

TD said “I think the main drivers for HMS Scott to be a unique design is because she needs to be very stable and have a mahoosive sonar transducer but how much technology inevitably marching on can eliminate os reduce the need is an interesting point ”

I would say you can never have enough resolution and I don’t think God is going to change the properties of water or salt soon.

April 23, 2014 2:41 pm


I’m mentioning Absalon, just to gauge size really. But with the same design parameters basically more of a military utility vessel than a frigate (less fighty) with a well designed stern for deployment of RIB’s etc and storage for containers etc.

April 23, 2014 3:23 pm

@ David Niven

Yes I know. My point is that in that our collective brainstorming, where as Jonesy says we agree on more than we disagree **, is that to make this MHPC to work we can’t help but go bigger. And the bigger we go the harder the sell will be. Politicians look at easy metrics such as size. We are now discussing replacing a range of ships with a ship substantially bigger than the largest we want to replace and roughly equal to the displacement of one entire class. Platform independence (“not fitted on” as opposed to “fitted for, but not with”) is even more appealing because there is no ship to build.

April 23, 2014 3:43 pm


‘ is that to make this MHPC to work we can’t help but go bigger. And the bigger we go the harder the sell will be’

Would not something like the FLEX patrol be usable in the role (I know its like playing fantasy fleets but the MHPC is going to be purchased for the Navy regardless) as at present is’nt the duty rumour that the BVT Venator is being considered for the role?

74m Length
12m Beam
2.4m Draught
700 Tons

I do think there is a way of getting a decent multi role capability from a single hull design.

April 23, 2014 5:09 pm

@ X

” I think it is symptomatic of the lack of understanding of these fundamentals that some here are able to explain away so easily the failure of SF300 to provide any savings or indeed flexibility.”

No offence but that is effing obllocks !…every single vessel built for the danish navy since the Flyvefisken class,
in total 23 vessels spanning 6 shipclasses., incorporates the Standard Flex system…EXACTLY because of its utility and flexibility. It has given the danish navy the ability to retain capabilities we would otherwise not have been able to afford keeping, if buying specialized ships.

I have seen posters on this, and other sites, implying that the changing of modules is something that rarely happens and that the ships therefore operate de facto in fixed role….frankly i dont know where this rumour originates from but it certainly isn’t from the dansih navy…because it also happens to be a load of tosh !!

Standard Flex modules were and are in fact changed on a regular basis , with the 76mm Oto mount , the ELINT/SIGINT and MCM modules being those most often moved from ship to ship (or shore). Harpoon and essm missile modules less often but they are taken on/off ships to suit deployment and maintenance schedules.

So not only are you wrong, you also completely misses the point of the StanFlex system…unlike the disastrous LCS program,..the original intent and aim, was never to achieve “transformationally flexible modularity..blah blah blah in naval combat, but to allow the navy to save money without loosing (too much) capability. A goal it achieved , and still does ,in full.

April 23, 2014 5:42 pm

Oh and returning to the subject of MCM…

Now that we (DK) dont have the MCM role SF300 ships anymore this is how we will operate in the future :http://www.saabgroup.com/en/Naval/Underwater-Security/Mine-Warfare-Systems/SMART_MCM/Technical-specifications/


Saab’s SMART MCM system’s command module is based on a 20 foot ISO container and ROV/AUV and other mcm equipment is fitted to Stanflex modules and the remote controlled drones .

This allows us to use any of our larger vessels , from Knud rasmussen class and up, as mothership if necessary , or operate from land if conducting mcm missions close to shore.

April 23, 2014 5:43 pm

@ Mike Kilo Papa

Well thank you for effing putting us right then……………… :)

Hopefully by 2025 when the RN is as big as the Danish we will be able to reap the benefits of such a system.

April 23, 2014 9:50 pm


Could the issue with Stanflex be actually more to do with the Flyvefisken class itself and the different flights within the class?. As you’ll know MCM mostly remained within the one flight…combat with a different flight because of the difference in fitouts of the respective hulls. If you wanted to to try and make a case against modularity the fact that the SF300’s werent role changed like an F1 car in the pits every few days is a good way to try and discredit the whole concept…however out of context that may be.


Interesting what you say about the pedestrian nature of the remote capabilities in the Thales etc solutions. What you’re describing is actually much more along the lines of what the French are doing with their mutihull USV as HK was detailing. I do recall there was a specialised mothership concept for the Espadon drone…maybe HK has some more about that he could share?.

The French concept has a lot of merit, not least as it follows the same potential as the SAAB system of systems that MKP links above, my preference would be for the Atlas Electronik type solution though and for the reason you note with the comment “they’ll need more TLC than a RIB”. I think that supporting a larger remote hull would become a more logistically challenging exercise than might be desirable in a rapid deployment capability. ARCIMS brought aboard on davits or on a stern ramp/cradle would be virtually as supportable as a standard RIB/ships boat.


Apparently BMT have re-evaluated Venator, as part of the Securator design work, and have determined that davits, mounted amidships in protected bays, are more practical for underway small boat launch and recovery operations than gantry/dock recovery astern. Last time I checked they’d even removed the original Venator concept material from their site and a much more conventional follow-on design had been uploaded.

April 24, 2014 9:54 am

Jonesy said “Interesting what you say about the pedestrian nature of the remote capabilities in the Thales etc solutions.”

I said “I am actually surprise by the lack of innovation in the hulls of these remote boats.”

I admit one of them above is a multihull but one swallow a summer does not make. The key word is hull. “the main body of a ship or other vessel, including the bottom, sides, and deck but not the masts, superstructure, rigging, engines, and other fittings.”

Stopping putting words in my mouth. As for the sensors these are evolutionary technologies; they aren’t a magic bullet to MCM work.


I would second TD’s request re SF300; please! I went on a quest last night and all my sources say what I say about SF300 but not of them are Danish. Brown doesn’t even mention the system in some of his works where modularity is mentioned. FWIW I am a fan of the Danish Navy especially your Iver Huitfeldt class, your naval home guard, and the Diana class patrol boats.

April 24, 2014 10:42 am

No foul here x….by ‘pedestrian’ I simply meant unexciting, modest, unadventurous…I’m not suggesting that the Espadon is exciting because its a multihull. I’m suggesting that its more the larger…more accomplished…drone you indicated earlier with a different deployment concept. You could say SAAB’s concept is in a similar vein….albeit even more standalone.

My point was that the logistics tail behind these may go some way beyond that which would normally be supportable from ships stores, as a RIB scaled boat would be, or a container-based workshop/stores support module. To me that changes the conops to something that is moving us away from ‘platform agnostic’ and towards an unnecessarily large and specialised USV mothership. If the Atlas Electronic solution is effective, as it would appear to possess all the components to be, I think the sacrifice for the larger drones additional capability comes at too high a cost.

The Other Chris
April 24, 2014 11:02 am

Diana’s are so far advanced of the Barsø’s that they replaced it’s unbelievable. Shocking diesel engine in them that kept conking out if you pushed them too hard from idle, used to cause havoc with conscripts.

April 24, 2014 5:16 pm


I suppose i could conjure up something on StanFlex ;-) , but it will have to wait though, till july and my summer vacation. I simply don’t have the time at the moment.

Besides i’m not sure if there really is enough material on the subject as to deserve an entire post….but i am willing to give it a try.


No not really …the difference in fit out was relatively minor and had little effect on actual operation .
Series 1 had a hydraulic propulsion system , but it was problematic , rarely used and subsequently deleted in the following series.
other differences were the primary surveillance radar, either TRS-3D or a Plessey AWS-6 and finally the last
of the class, the only flight 3 boat built,the Sea lion had an extra auxiliary engine.

Its true that late in their career they mostly operated in a fixed role , but that was more a reflection of issues with crew training, than any limitations in the ships themselves, all of which could rapidly be configured for any of
the roles intended for the class, be it MCM/minelaying ,combat, surveillance, ASW , surveying or anti-pollution etc.

The F1 analogy simply reveals that people don’t understand the idea of modularity as it was envisioned in a danish context. For us, it was all about solving the tasks at hand with the fewest means(ie ships) possible. Because our budget would not allow a 1 to 1 replacement of hulls we had to do with 14 ships what we had previously done with 22. That was only possible because of StanFlex.


Google translated ,but not completely incomprehensible ;-)

April 24, 2014 6:43 pm

yes i like the Iver’s too..mostly because they force us to relearn all the fighty stuff like combat and damage control we haven’t really been training for the last 15 years or so. .. With the Absalons and the frigates going through training at the German Navy Damage Control Training Centre in Neustadt and then your FOST, we will be on our way to become a proper navy again :-D …very much in fact with the Royal Navy as a role model.

Wrt our naval home guard….they really are doing sterling work , and most of it for free by unpaid volunteers .
they ,almost, makes up for the fact that we don’t have a dedicated coast guard.
( with the thetis and knud rasmussen class doing the coast guard’y work in the north atlantic and around greenland ).

April 24, 2014 7:41 pm

@ MikeKiloPapa

I see the IH’s as the basis for my fantasy RN light frigate because of their diesels. Strip out your AAW systems. Add SeaCeptot et voila. Sometimes if I have had too much dandelion and burdock I see 5 inchers at both A and B, and twin hangars for Merlin.

Back in the Cold War we had an organization similar to your naval home guard called the Royal Naval Auxiliary Service, but it had a different purpose……..


Also n the UK we have the RNLI that covers some of those responsibilities undertaken by your naval home guard…….


Personally if money no issue I would like to see more minor RN vessels in UK waters manned by the RNR and auxiliaries. .

I am bit of a traditionalist when it comes to naval matters. I think it because when I worked in IT I saw so many solid practices thrown out for supposedly better and cheaper solutions that never delivered at best or caused actually harm to the business that I take similar claims in other spheres with a good dollop of skepticism.

I hope you will post often. It will be good to hear some Scandi-sense. :)

April 24, 2014 8:10 pm

@ David Niven

I think the future of RN MCM will look like this……..
comment image

Only with mother painted grey. Note the SBS boat and imagine in it’s place one of those remote boats.

@ Jonesy

Yes I understand the arguments for “platform agnosticism” (?) but I am not sure about it.

I will try to give you a quick example using those more conventional looking remote boats (robot boats, roboats? No? Ok! :) ) they are rather obvious. Yes we all know GF is invisible to RADAR. But they would be visible to the MK1 eyeball. The simple solution to me was to go semi-submersible; this solves another concern of mine windage. Why be concerned? Everybody here is assuming that the coast is safe and these operations are operating in uncontested wates. Yet supposedly we live in an age of wars without front lines. A technical with 14.7 in the load bed and good bye little expensive glass fibre boat. As I said above I think mother will be more forward than many here think. I think we are along way of these boats being virtually autonomous and operated say from a little satellite at Whaley. Mother may not need to be built to Sandowne standards but I don’t think a degaussed commercial hull will quite cut it. In keeping with our Danish theme…….


Glass fibre, ice-strengthened to 10cm so not weak, and downright economical. Even have a decent turn of speed. I am sure something could be built here using something innovative, because as we all know the i word is short hand for cheap, to reduce underwater noise from the propulsion system. Add a thruster or two. I will spare you my thoughts on reducing the hull’s pressure signature. :)

April 24, 2014 11:01 pm


With regards to motherships, the French seem to think that specialized hulls will be quite necessary. The sea state requirements seem to be the big driver. For the sea states envisioned (SS3 / SS4) you need fairly advanced launch & recovery systems, because USV/AUVs are fragile and potentially quite large (so as to be effective in those same sea states, especially if the USV itself is towing/deploying a sonar/AUV).

(Of course specialized motherships are not incompatible with more adhoc operations of “minimal MCM sets” from other platforms in more permissive environments… so any future solution is likely to span both CONOPS)

Anyway, for SS3 / SS 4 operations DCNS engineers have already ruled out cranes & docks… sort of limits your options doesn’t it! Preference seems to be for some kind of towed sked that could secure the USV/AUV in a nice padded cradle so that it could then be safely lifted out of the water. This sked/craddle system has popped up in several artists’ impressions:

1,500t Adroit-type mothership: http://fr.dcnsgroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/63431.jpg
3,700t catamaran-mothership: http://www.meretmarine.com/objets/28370.jpg

Sure makes for an interesting flashback to those failed WWII seaplane recovery mats… doesn’t quite give one much confidence! And no word on how they would handle a 25-40 ton heavy catamaran USV… which may well dropped from the final solution.

April 24, 2014 11:20 pm

Good video on sea states from a kayaker’s perspective… perhaps similar to how a small USV/AUV would feel it:


… shows why SS3 / SS4 could be a bit tough on those poor robots during launch & recovery operations!

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
April 25, 2014 6:59 am

UK to get new Polar Research vessel.


Any good for MHPC/SIMMS?

The Other Chris
April 25, 2014 8:10 am

Be interesting to see what the final proposals are like.

£200m per unit? Does MHPC/SIMMS need to be a full-on ice-breaker or ice-strengthened?

One argument in the “Yes” camp for such ice-breakers is the military build up in the Arctic:


Not to mention the Antartic claims and counter-claims…

Having numerous utility vessels capable of patrolling, surveying and assisting in resupply/SAR in arctic/antarctic areas would be a selling point for UK Plc.

I still love the rakish “Great Liners era” looks of the UT 777 design (some imagination required to envisage the enclosed drilling rig work space altered accordingly) and freely admit it’s purely an aesthetic thing. :)


An aesthetic thing with some nice features too (Ooh ooh! A moon pool! A moon pool!). This isn’t an ice-breaker design though. An enclosed work area and moon pool for deploying remote systems in all(?) weathers would be something to consider on such a ship however.

April 25, 2014 8:53 am

@ Swimming Trunks

I think you will find the RRS Discovery more to your taste……….


(In the middle distance you can the SS Shieldhall. :) )

April 25, 2014 8:56 am

@ H_K

I do hope that these boats are only for demo’ing and prototyping. Before a contract is signed I would hope somebody would say we like the electronics but the hull………..ah……….no……..

April 25, 2014 12:47 pm


Many thanks for coming back on that…it was the big multihull I remember causing some excitement a ways back. The view was along the lines of a French LCS…just done properly!.

I’m not sure totally I agree with the need for the larger hull for seakeeping though…you look at this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kI5Yr-5cmQ and you can see that these circa 11m multihulls are pretty solid in a seaway. Thats an 11m SeaCat, similar to the ICE ARCIMS hull, in a good SS3, wind-assisted, and she’s motoring along nicely!.

Interesting that DCNS have arrived at the conclusion you note when BMT have determined that davits, as close to centre of pitch as possible, are optimal and Vestdavit rate their wave-compensating davit system up to SS5.


Indeed there is truth that only an idiot would lay a minefield and not cover it with some kind of surface fire. In truth though you’d anticipate a professionally laid field being covered by something a tad more formidable than a KPV on a Hilux, the simplest defence against which is staying 2000yds offshore. These days even Hamas can get hold of Iranian knockoff’s of Chinese light antiship missiles and sling them on platforms that make that Argentine flatbed MM38 lashup that caught GLAMORGAN look exotic and advanced.

Going inside the radar horizon from an unfriendly coast…even if youve got a 30mm REMSIG on the front is getting chancier all the time. Standing off 10 or 20,000yds (which is my view of how this works) from the mines is no guarantee of safety from covering forces…even in a very asymmetric scenario. The answer is bigger/better gun on the mothership and better sensors…something that conveniently fits the patrol tasking. Soon we are going to have to look at CIWS/antimissile for the RN as we dont have any stock of Phalanx mounts to transfer onto the new T26’s. Picking one gun to do minor war fleet…escort/HVU CIWS and, ultimately, ASCG replacement just makes sense…BAE Mk4 cued off something like a Sagem EOMS-NG fits nicely for virtually everything from CVF down!.

April 25, 2014 4:05 pm

Jonesy, the problem with davits is all the bumping against the hull. Fine for a RHIB perhaps (especially a seldom used one), but not so good for a USV/AUV that is going to be deployed hundreds/thousands of times, that may not be controlled too finely, and that may not have extra fenders!

Based on this video of Vestdavit’s system, I would not like to see what would happen to a USV or Seakeeper-style USSV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwoXOjQY_q0

April 26, 2014 1:57 pm

Ohhh you hit my real weakness there H_K…SWATH porn.

The A&R 60m pilot station hulls, Elbe shown in that clip, are just fantastic units. I have an A&R image somewhere of an armed 70m variant on that hull which would be such a perfect base for any MHPC type vessel its not funny…you can see the stability inherent in the hull in that clip…thats a 2m+ swell at times and she’s sitting there rock solid. Shame it is too wild and revolutionary a concept ever to be taken seriously. The Latvians run the Skrunda class, a 25m A&R design, which I’d stack up against those Diana-class vessels mentioned earlier any time. Same performance…operational up to SS8…half the installed power!.

SWATH fetish aside…any 11m sized USV is going to have to contend with some shock loads from wave slamming forces in normal operation. Even aboard its mothership you’ll get shock loads from bouncing in whatever cradle its sat in when in a heavy sea. Bumping up a hull being launched and recovered off a davit shouldnt introduce any loads that the designers wont have allowed for…otherwise the electronics wont last past a couple of missions so its all a moot point anyway!. Personally, as opposed to inventing a whole new recovery system as you described earlier, I’d go with the trusty davits and, perhaps, come up with a thick rubber padded scramble net or some such thing to drape over the side to help cushion any wilder clobbering motions…help save the paintwork too!.

I’m off for a cold shower now anyway!

April 26, 2014 3:31 pm

Jonesy said “The Latvians run the Skrunda class, a 25m A&R design, which I’d stack up against those Diana-class vessels mentioned earlier any time. ”

Interesting. You bang on about module this and module that, and capability before platform to save expense and then you say a complicated hull design is better than a cheap simple hull. SWATH has an awful lot going for it and I too am a fan. But the reason why we don’t see it everywhere as you know is expense (plus institutional myopia!) but mostly money. Complex machinery needs more maintenance and that means more personnel. I can’t like hydrofoils but in a discussion about bespoke hull verses module I wouldn’t think they would be germane to the discussion because of expense.

“In truth though you’d anticipate a professionally laid field being covered by something a tad more formidable than a KPV on a Hilux, the simplest defence against which is staying 2000yds offshore.”

You are a very literal person aren’t you? In future I shall endeavour to spell things out a little bit more, Using a technical as an illustration I gave was to offer an extreme base line example of shoreside threat to these small boars. For all I know the opfor could have tanks or laser cannon. The other reason why I said “technical” was to imply that whoever laid the mines may not be that professional. By professional I mean Western standards just to be clear. Local knowledge would be enough to suggest suitable places for the placing of mines. I know it is fashionable to focus on the likes of Hezbollah having accessing to AShM; but the strength of these organisations lies not in the one off spectacular pulled off by agents provocateurs from “rogues” states but the fact they have lots of men with rifles, RPGs, and HMGs. Some of the latter even mounted on commercial vehicles . As for defending the MCM capability against interdiction by a peer enemy who has laid large fields I would suggest other platforms are better for that role than the MCM “capability” (whatever form it takes) itself/themselves (beyond immediate self-defense.) Actually I think this another flaw in the mothership idea in that it actually concentrates capability. My preference would be dispers the capability (by which I mean control of these robotic boats) across a number of smaller simpler hulls to reduce attrition that if not built to the standard of SRMH at least have some thought given to reducing their potential signature (yes even using glass fibre to reduce magnetic signature) as I mentioned above when I mentioned the Diana class. I am still trying to figure out why you thought to criticise my observation that the lack of sophistication in the hull design of the robotic boats was stupid (even though as I said it addressed several real concerns) and yet me proposing a simple ship to act as mother for these remote boats then you go on to knock their capabilities by comparing them to much more sophisticate hull technology.

April 26, 2014 4:10 pm

Correction: “Same performance…operational up to SS6…half the installed power!.”

April 26, 2014 5:09 pm


The SWATH thing was a departure because it came up in H_K’s video. Nothing more. I do wonder about this ‘accepted wisdom’ that the SWATH is so much more complex than a conventional monohull. Skrunda unit cost was apparently about Eur9mn a throw which compares well with the Diana’s seeing that the Diana class engines were donated and its mission module comes from the pool.

…and, with no disrespect intended towards the great nation of Latvia, its naval service is not one of the most advanced or well-resourced on the planet yet they seem quite able to support, logistically, a class of 5 SWATH hulls. The Estonians likewise have acquired a similar hull for droggy purposes…again Estonia, lovely place, not known for its advanced naval support infrastructure?!. Then we come to the installed power issue…4.2MW for the Diana….1.8MW Skrunda usually points towards lower running costs for the lesser powered unit. Anyway a side issue.

The ‘Hilux with a KPV’ was meant as levity…by saying ‘stay 2000yds offshore’ I was meaning that the small arms engagement range for ad hoc combatants was very limited. You seemed to be suggesting over-reaching vulnerability, for an ARCIMS-type boat, to anyone who popped-up with an RPG. It does conjure up amusing images of Ahmed the floating terrorist chasing after robot boats trying to pot one with rocket launcher, but, I’m not sure thats a huge threat consideration. For the peer threat I actually far prefer your semi-submersible idea, but, that doesnt seem to be on offer so, to my mind, ARCIMS looks the next best option.

I’m not sure where you got the idea I was criticising your point about the remote boat designs?. I said it was interesting as it was essentially the French concept, but, that I thought the bigger USV would demand a new concept, with a heavier logistic burden, compared to the ARCIMS-type technique that we’re doing now. I wouldn’t suggest that Skrunda fits into that, French-style, concept any more than the Diana class would.

April 26, 2014 6:36 pm

@ Jonesy

If you had kept the discussion to generalities when it came to SWATH I would have classed as one of those thread diversions we here often enjoy. But you made a particular point of comparing SWATH to the Diana class I mentioned and had explained my reasons for suggesting a similar solution for future UK MCM ship. How is the casual reader to interpret such? I

April 26, 2014 7:13 pm

Again no foul intended x…..similar type of role for the hulls in my mind thats all. Both inshore/coastal mcm/survey/patrol platforms.

As said I didnt even put the Diana design into the class of unmanned craft you were talking about as its something bigger again and to deploy would likely step into the realms of the old FSC study Mother/Daughter ship concepts. That opens up a whole new chapter as to whether that concept could offer anything to MHC…if that was what you were considering?. Basically cheap ‘short range’ coastal boats with a small number of costly large transport platforms outfitted, perhaps, for HMS Scott-style deep water hydrography/MCMW Command etc?.

Have to have a think on that one.

April 26, 2014 8:06 pm

@ Jonesy

Up the page I said that the Diana class given its construction and its pragmatic economical design would be a good starting point for a mothership (small) for a robot boat. I said it would be hard to justify the cost of something similar to Sandown. But that a mothership (small) would still need some work on it to reduce its signature (just as we paint loggies’ wagons green/brown, our RFA’s grey etc.) I just don’t see these robot boats being self-deploying for .a decade or more. Yes we have UUV that are autonomous. But there is a difference between experiments and trials and front line working. Compared to some military equipment they will be cheap, but still they will have cost so……….