Defence has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to industry on interest in and ability to provide ongoing support to all or part of the RAN’s mine countermeasures (MCM) systems.
The RFI, released on 20 July and closing on 15 August, says MCM systems are currently supported by different contractors under two separate agreements managed by the Mine Warfare and Clearance Diving Systems Program Office.
New systems acquired through Phase 1 of Project Sea 1778 (Deployable MCM capability) have introduced a number of autonomous and unmanned capabilities to the RAN which complement and add to existing and legacy systems.
“Through this RFI the Commonwealth is seeking to understand the willingness and capability of respondents to provide sustainment and support in the autonomous and underwater domain to identify options where operational and cost efficiencies can be achieved,” the RFI states.
Responses to the RFI will not be competitively evaluated, but will be reviewed and considered by the Commonwealth as an information source.
Sustainment and support are required for: 4 x Bluefin 9 and 3 x Bluefin 12 autonomous underwater vehicles (UUVs); 8 x training and inspection rounds of the Seafox expendable mine neutralisation system; 3 x MCM support boats; 2 x unmanned surface vessels (USF); 18 x Australian acoustic generators; and 47 x exercise training mines.
Sustainment service requirements comprise support services management together with engineering, maintenance, supply, and training support.
According its manufacturer, General Dynamics Mission Systems, the Bluefin-9 UUV delivers mission endurance of up to eight hours at three knots and dives to 200 metres. A removable module 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 support vessels.
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.
The three 38-ft MCM support boats each carry five crew, feature a top speed of 25 knots and a three-tonne payload, and deploy, operate and recover combinations of MCM subsystems. The glass fibre craft are manufactured by Taree-based Steber International. The two Steber-based USFs are controlled remotely by a C3 system from French company ECA Robotics and are designed to tow the AMASS (Australian Minesweeping and Support System) across minefields without sailors being exposed to danger.