France and the United Kingdom signed a joint contract with Thales to start the production phase of Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) programme to deliver eight unmanned mine hunting systems to the British and French Navies.
The contract marked the tenth anniversary of the Lancaster House treaties between the countries. It came after the first phase of the MMCM program in which two demonstrators have successfully proven their operational performances at sea. Phase 1 initiated in 2015 was to demonstrate and qualify the technology.
Under the contract, four mine hunting systems will be supplied to France and four to the United Kingdom. With this contract, French and British Navies equip themselves with the world’s first fully integrated unmanned mine countermeasures system of systems.
The MMCM program is the first step in the renewal of the operational concept for mine warfare in France and the United Kingdom, based on the use of unmanned systems which could potentially replace traditional minehunters. This is a step change in capability, improving performances, productivity and removing the need to place members of the armed forces in harm’s way.
The subsystems developed for the programme by Thales and its partners, ECA Group, L3Harris and Saab, include Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) to transport and connect solutions and a cutting-edge sonar (SAMDIS) offering unique Single Path Multi View capability to identify and classify threats. The SAMDIS sonar can be carried by Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) or by Towed Synthetic Aperture Multiviews (TSAM) vehicle operated from the USV. The USV can also carry a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to neutralize the threats. The entire system is remotely supervised by operators working from a Portable Operational Centre (POC) capable of controlling up to three systems in parallel at sea.
MMCM is the only proven system to offer advanced technologies, including autonomy, to improve performance and productivity thanks to the combination of unrivalled real time user experience using big data exchanges with trusted augmented artificial intelligence (A2I) to provide huge improvement of customer trust in operation clearance and increase the security of national interests. As a result of Thales’s open-architecture approach to MMCM, these new technologies can be easily integrated into the overall system, providing the navies with the opportunity to introduce new operational capabilities, in a planned way, throughout the life of the system.
After the success of the first configuration conducted under real operational conditions with the complete system, Thales is now fully committed to deliver the first operational systems to French and British navies by 2022.
“Thales is grateful to France and the United Kingdom for trusting such an important technology transition with the Thales teams in France and the UK. To date during trials, the MMCM systems and its assets have covered the equivalent of 30.000 soccer fields at sea, sometimes with very rough sea conditions. This is indeed a step change in how Navies will be able to respond in the future to vicious threats such as mines and improvised explosive devices at sea.” Alexis Morel, VP Underwater Systems, Thales.