The RAN’s anti-mine capability will be boosted next year with the delivery under Project Sea 1778 Phase 1 of four General Dynamics Bluefin-9 unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and three larger Bluefin-12s, a Defence spokesperson has confirmed.
The UUVs, to be based at HMAS Waterhen in Sydney, will search for, classify and identify sea mines, providing a maritime task group with an “initial, interim, mine countermeasures capability,” the spokesperson said.
According to the manufacturer, the Bluefin-9 combines high navigational accuracy, outstanding sonar resolution, and precision manufacturing to deliver highly-detailed subsurface data via a removable data storage module.
This stores high-definition images, video and sonar data that can be accessed within minutes of the vehicle’s recovery. The two-man portable UUV weighs 70kg and can be deployed and recovered from piers, a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) or other vessels of opportunity.
The Bluefin-9 delivers mission endurance of up to eight hours at three knots and dives to 200 metres.
The Bluefin-12 weighs 213kg and can carry multiple payloads simultaneously for mine countermeasures and unexploded ordnance detection at depths of up to 200 metres.
The vehicle design includes swappable payload sections and battery modules for in-field mission reconfiguration. Endurance is around 26 hours at three knots.
Rapid Environmental Assessment under Project Sea 1770 Phase 1 will also be enhanced with the delivery in December of two REMUS 100S UUVs optimised for hydrographic survey and seabed search in shallow waters to a depth of 100 metres.
Defence anticipates operational capability will be achieved in June 2020 within an undisclosed suite of systems. The capability will provide the ability to remotely conduct hydrographic surveys in addition to recording oceanographic information such as salinity and current for prediction models to support military operations and exercises.
The REMUS 100S (Survey) weighs 37kg, has an endurance of 12 hours at depths of up to 100 metres, and is in widespread military and civilian use.