MCM is undergoing an operational and technological revolution. Fully auto-mated robotic systems and uncrewed vehicles are changing deployment doctrines and making MCM more accessible than ever.
Chantiers de l’Atlantique has designed an innovative mine countermeasures vessel to work in conjunction with uncrewed surface and underwater vehicles. In cooperation with Thales and other companies in the Sea Naval Solutions consortium, the aim was to develop a design compatible with the Franco-British MMCM programme (see next page).
The ship can accommodate two uncrewed surface vehicles (USVs) and up to nine autonomous underwater vehicles and ROVs in a dedicated hangar. These vehicles are generically referred to as drones. The deck can also accommodate additional equipment in two 20-foot containers.
One of the ship’s main design features is the drone deployment and recovery system. Chantiers de l’Atlantique and offshore technologies specialist Nov-BLM jointly designed the system for use in rough seas. Operations are safe and easy to perform without personnel on the drone. The drones are moved to, then placed in, a cradle for deployment by the aft gantry. When raising or lowering the cradle, it is guided by vertical rails to eliminate surge, sway and heave effects. Because the cradle floats in the water, it moves with the drone when positioning the two for recovery while the vertical rails and cables to the gantry also play their part. This system was developed and validated, using both digital modelling and tank tests, for use up to sea state 4 and beyond and with the ship moving at up to 5kts during deployment or recovery. Once a drone is in the cradle, the two can be raised and secured in less than 10 seconds.
The system can handle drones from 80kg to 20t and up to 12m in length to accommodate the largest USVs. It can also launch and recover RHIBs when crew intervention at sea is required. The ship’s other boats are handled by other systems.
Thanks to its twin propulsion pods, the ship is highly manoeuvrable. The design also includes a small flight deck and hangar for UAV operations. UAVs will be used for reconnaissance, to locate drifting mines and to act as radio relays when MCM drones are deployed far from the ship.
In addition to being shock resistant, the hull is designed for high survivability should it stray into a mine field. Other MCM features include a hull sonar optimised for mine detection and underwater RF, electrical and noise signatures comparable with those of an ASW frigate. «
Designer: Chantiers de l'Atlantique
- Displacement: 3,700 t
- Dimensions (m): 80 x 15
- Speed: > 16 kts
- Accommodation: 60
- Weapons: 1 x 30/40 mm
More information in Mer et Marine Euronaval 2018 Special issue : "Naval Forces : focus on french technology"