Royal Navy to receive world-class autonomous minesweepers

The Royal Navy is set to receive three world-class autonomous minesweepers to work on mine disposal operations and reduce the risk to sailors on these dangerous missions.

The crewless system is the first of its kind in the navy and will allow personnel to neutralise mines at range while on operations around the globe.

Thanks to its cutting-edge technology, the system, known as a Combined Influence Sweep (Sweep), can defeat modern digital sea mines which can pose risks by detecting and targeting passing ships and submarines. 

A new autonomous vessel is at the heart of each of the three systems. It can neutralise many types of seas mines using equipment towed behind the boat that can generate a variety of simulated magnetic, acoustic and electric ship signatures to initiate the mine.

The whole system can be controlled remotely, either based at sea or on land, and can be deployed quickly when needed. 

A contract of around £25m has been awarded to Atlas Elektronik UK to deliver the Sweep system and will support more than 25 jobs at the Dorset-based company. Additional jobs will also be supported in the supply chain.

These autonomous systems will restore the Royal Navy's sweep capability, enabling it to tackle modern digital mines that may not otherwise be located in challenging minehunting conditions.

Commander Mark Atkinson

Commander Mark Atkinson, part of the project team for the Royal Navy, said:  'Combined Influence Minesweeping is a critical component of the Mine Countermeasures capability. 

“These autonomous systems will restore the Royal Navy's sweep capability, enabling it to tackle modern digital mines that may not otherwise be located in challenging minehunting conditions.

“The autonomous sweep system represents a fundamental step in the Navy's transition to autonomous offboard systems to counter the threat posed to international shipping by the sea mine.”

The latest investment in the Royal Navy’s minehunting operations comes just weeks after the navy announced it would be investing in three autonomous maritime mine countermeasures (MMCM) systems.

Both Sweep and the MMCM can work together to defeat the threat posed by sea mines to make international waters safer.

The first Sweep system will be delivered in late 2022, after which they will enter operational evaluation before entering service at a date to be determined.

Sir Simon Bollom, DE&S chief executive, said: “This cutting-edge Sweep technology follows hot on the heels of the contract negotiated for equally innovative autonomous minehunters and provides the Royal Navy with the increased capability they need to deal with modern mine threats.”