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Autonomous minehunting test team mark one year in the Gulf

RNMB Harrier has spent a year in the Gulf trialling autonomous and remote-piloted minehunting systems
13 March 2024
The team responsible for introducing autonomous minehunting into front-line operations in the Gulf has successfully completed its first 12 months.

The Mine and Threat Exploitation Group’s Operational Evaluation Unit has spent the past year in the Middle East testing a series of uncrewed and remote-piloted systems which will one day be the future of minehunting in the Royal Navy.

Working with Royal Navy Motor Boat Harrier and based on RFA Cardigan Bay, the team have put various pieces of equipment and technology through their paces to see how they operate and react to the climate of the Gulf and the complex missions current minehunting units carry out.

Harrier is capable of operating both autonomously (pre-programmed to conduct a mission) or remotely from a ship or shore-based remote-control centre. She tows a side-scan sonar behind her to look for mines on the seabed, alerting units ashore or at sea of their whereabouts.

As part of the trials she has also been working with remotely-operated underwater vehicles and a minesweeping system.

In a fruitful first year for the Operational Evaluation Unit, the team has integrated and deployed Harrier from Cardigan Bay, a shore control base at the UK Naval Support Facility in Bahrain and Sandown and Hunt-class minehunters.

Lieutenant Alex Gibby, MTXG Group Engineering Officer, said: “We have gained valuable experience in the deployment and operation of Harrier to provide lessons ahead of the main roll-out of Mine Hunting Capability Block 1 systems.

“We have also begun to establish the infrastructure and logistical support required to operate autonomous minehunting systems at reach.”  


We have gained valuable experience in the deployment

Lieutenant Alex Gibby, MTXG Group Engineering Officer

The trials and tests held by MTXG will pave the way for the use of autonomous and uncrewed systems on operations in the Gulf.

Using the systems in theatre gives better protection to Royal Navy personnel, who can remain a safe distance from any possible explosives and also gives more options on how to deal with potential threats.

With the success of Harrier, the team can now look to operating other autonomous submersibles and remotely-operated vehicles which can survey, ID and neutralise threats.

The next milestone for us will be the receipt of new medium autonomous underwater vehicles, Arcims-class uncrewed surface vessels, and Remus 300 robot underwater vehicles offering a wider profile as the UK  moves to an in-service operational unit in MTXG this year.

“These will increase our agility and flexibility to contribute to MCM operations, and X-Ray Squadron is suitably excited to begin employing these new systems,” Alex added.

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