The Royal Australian Navy has introduced a deployable Mine Counter-Measures (MCM) capability under Project SEA 1778.
Under Project 1778 Phase One, Australian Mine Warfare Team 16 (MWT 16) was commissioned to operate a suite of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), unmanned surface vessels (USV), expendable mine neutralization systems, and MCM support craft.
The first ‘roll out’ of equipment will be the man-portable Bluefin-9 AUV, which MWT 16 is undergoing pilot training on at Sydney’s Pittwater area.
Commander Mine Warfare, Clearance Diving, Hydrographic, Meteorological, Oceanographic and Patrol Force (COMMHP), Captain Bryan Parker, said: “By its very nature, MCM operations are a time consuming task and conventional Minehunters have a relatively slow speed of advance compared to our other warships. We are aiming to provide an MCM capability in-stride with, or in some cases ahead of, deploying maritime task groups to effectively speed up the time taken on this important function and enabling maritime manoeuvre.
“There’s a global up-swell of interest and enthusiasm in what we’re doing with the use of remote and autonomous systems (with potential for significant embedded Artificial Intelligence) because of the diversity and complexity of sea mine types available, the dangers they pose to our current and future fleet, and the need to ensure the safety our people involved in MCM operations.
“It is intended that the lessons learned from the introduction and use of the Project 1778-1 equipment will help inform development of future ADF MCM capabilities.”
The Commanding Officer of MWT 16, Lieutenant Commander John Sutherland, added: “We’ve been working with partners to upskill our people in the operation of AUV technology and provide them with invaluable underpinning AUV knowledge required to execute activities.
“At the present time this involves running a training period to conduct a pilot Thales and General Dynamics Bluefin-9 AUV equipment application course, and to work with DSTG to operate their Teledyne Gavia AUV.”
Lieutenant Commander Sutherland said the new autonomous and unmanned technologies will allow Navy to search for, classify, identify and dispose of sea mines more safely and efficiently and limit the danger factor presented when personnel are directly involving in mine removal and destruction.
“There’s a lot of training, testing and trialing involved, but we’re all aware of the significance of this new generation of technology, the team are making an important contribution to Navy’s leading edge capability and mission to fight and win at sea,” Lieutenant Commander Sutherland said.
MWT 16 will officially begin receiving their new technology suite later this year which will include four Bluefin-9 AUVs, three Bluefin-12 AUVs, two Unmanned Surface Vessels for remote influence minesweeping, three MCM Support Boats, and the Seafox Expendable Mine Neutralisation System.