The Royal Navy is transitioning mine countermeasures capability from ships to unmanned, autonomous units and a distributed, disaggregated force that makes use of networking, autonomy and artificial intelligence.
With a series of operational demonstrators already on contract as part of Block 1 of the Mine Hunting Capability (MHC) programme, the Ministry of Defence and UK Royal Navy are developing plans for the next stage of the overarching modernisation of UK mine countermeasures (MCM) capability.
As the main part of the recapitalisation of the Royal Navy’s MCM force, MHC Block 2 will lay the foundations for broader long-term plans that will see the service transition to become a more distributed and disaggregated force configured to exploit innovation in digital networking, autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI).
Intended to progressively replace the Royal Navy’s ageing Sandown- and Hunt-class mine countermeasures vessels of the course of this decade, the MHC programme envisages the introduction of new maritime autonomous ‘system of systems’ packages that will be capable of executing MCM operations both in home waters and overseas.
The aim is to exploit advances in technology in areas such as autonomy, sensors and advanced data processing techniques in order to increase the tempo of MCM, improve survey ‘product’ on the seabed and in the water column’, improve the portability and transportability of MCM systems by ‘modularising’ component systems, and remove crews from the mine danger area.
This will be achieved through the development and fielding of scalable mission packages – tailored to mine hunting, mine sweeping, and mine neutralisation/threat exploitation – employing autonomous systems that can be deployed from any suitable Royal Navy, Royal Fleet Auxiliary or commercial platform, or from the shore.