The UK Royal Navy is welcoming the arrival in Plymouth of a new mine-hunting ‘mother ship’ that will soon be used to launch drones and protect UK waters from mines.
Based at His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, the 96.8-meter-long vessel will work side-by-side with autonomous mine-hunting systems already operated by the Royal Navy out of Faslane under Project Wilton.
The vessel, a former offshore supply vessel that was built in 2013, was purchased by UK Ministry of Defence from Island Offshore for about $50 million (40 million GBP). It arrived at HMNB Devonport, where it will undergo minimal conversion work to support installation of military communication systems and Royal Fleet Auxiliary operations before being handed over to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) later this year.
“This is another significant step forward in the modernisation of Royal Navy capabilities and use of autonomous systems to complement our crewed fleet,” said Defence Procurement Minister, Alex Chalk KC. “This vessel will play a crucial role in the detection of undersea threats, keeping our personnel out of harm’s way while they conduct vital operations.”
Starting this spring, the vessel will serve as a mother ship for uncrewed systems (i.e. drones) designed to safeguard UK waters from the threat of mines at sea.
“The delivery of this ship is an important step in the Navy’s transformation to conducting mine countermeasures using distributed offboard systems-of-systems,” said Commodore Steve Prest, Director Navy Acquisition. “The ship will be used to extend the range of our Maritime Autonomous Systems from coastal waters to conducting offshore survey operations in Defence of the homeland.”
The uncrewed systems will include the joint French-UK Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) system, the Combined Influence Sweep (SWEEP) system and Medium Underwater Autonomous Vehicles (MAUVs).
“Our team undertook extensive research and market analysis to identify a vessel for the Royal Navy that would meet the vital capability it needs, and could be delivered at pace whilst also provide value for money to the taxpayer,” added Defence Equipment and Support Director General Ships, Vice Admiral Paul Marshall. “The result of that agile working is the delivery of a highly effective ship which will be converted to purpose at HMNB Devonport. Once militarised, it will play a key role in countering the evolving threats posed by mines at sea.”