While sea mines laid during the First and Second World wars remain a threat to shipping around the world, recent conflicts such as the Russian Invasion of Ukraine (Black Sea) and the Houthi Rebels’ attack on commercial vessels in the Red Sea are further adding to the problem.
The need for effective Mine Countermeasures (MCM) is arguably more important than ever and this has recently been exemplified by programs led by the Royal Navy and France’s Marine National on the one hand; and the Belgian and Dutch Navies on the other.
Indeed, the latter two services have specialised in the classification, verification and neutralisation of mines as a major part of their maritime contribution to NATO for many years and are arguably at the forefront of tactics, training and procedures (TTP) in the field.
To keep abreast of an evolving threat, the Belgian and Dutch Navies have turned to modern technology to not only help solve the problem remotely, but to keep their personnel clear of the danger zone.
This has led to the selection of Exail’s MCM ‘toolbox’ modular solution which utilises robotics and autonomous system and completion of the first equipment occurred in December.
Exail has a ‘vertically integrated’ approach to remote MCM, whereby it is able to deliver a toolkit of autonomous and remotely operated platforms, together with sensors and mission planning and training tools, to its customers.
For example, the equipment purchased by the Belgians and Dutch include Exail’s Inspector 125 - a 12.33-metre Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV); A-18M Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV); T18-M Towed Synthetic Aperture Sonar System; Seascan-M Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV); K-STER C ROV (for the neutralisation of mines); and containerised MCM Command and Control & Communications systems.
In addition, the company is supplying the UMS Skeldar V-200 unmanned Vertical Take Off and Landing (VTOL) system and it will also be integrating the Influence Mine Sweeping System, which contains a magnetic module manufactured by CTM of Poland and an acoustic module, which is a signature generation system from Finland's Patria. Alternatively, Exail can also offer its own IT180 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
“Eighty percent of the world’s trade travels by sea,” noted Daniel Scourzic, Exail’s Strategy Director for MCM & Deepwater Systems and Project Lead for the company’s proposal for Australia’s Sea 1905 (Mine Countermeasures & Military Survey) program.
“Our third-generation MCM system is designed to be operated from facilities ashore, from vessels of opportunity, or from a dedicated purpose-designed vessel.”
Disclaimer: The writer travelled to France as a guest of Exail.