ECA Group has announced the delivery of several fully robotic underwater mine counter-measure systems to two navies, including that of Kazakhstan. The systems allow customers to deploy vehicles that will protect crews, keeping them outside the minefield. Until recently, detection sonar of such systems was located on the minehunter, which required entering of the threat area and being exposed to a risk of explosion. Thanks to a system based entirely on specialized robots, mines are now detected using high resolution sonar fitted either on autonomous underwater vehicles or on surface drones, thus avoiding the need for the mother ship to approach the mines.
Once the sonar has detected potential mines, an inspection robot such as the SEASCAN MK2 is used to confirm via video images that the object is indeed a mine, and a disposal vehicle such as the K-STER C is then dispatched to destroy the mine. These robots can be launched either from the mother ship or remotely deployed from a surface drone, thereby keeping the mother ship at a safer distance from the mines.
For several years, ECA Group has been developing a comprehensive range of underwater robots, including AUVs, mine killers, ROVs and USVs/surface drones. Used together on a single vessel, these different robots can perform full mine counter-missions, as well as hydrography, surveillance, and research & assistance missions, through their sequential and/or simultaneous deployment.
To manage the mission of various robots on the vessel, ECA Group has over recent years developed an Unmanned MCM Information System (UMIS) enabling the vessel to plan and conduct mine counter missions safely and effectively through the optimal operation of the various robots, and to incorporate the information collected into the naval customer’s centralized management system.
Thanks to ECA Group’s wide range of robots, there is considerable flexibility to adapt the systems offered depending on the customer’s operational requirements and budget: minimal configurations make it possible to carry mine counter solutions on smaller vessels (<30m), in particular where the requirement is limited to coastal mine counter measures. For planned mine counter activity requiring rapid mine disposal, e.g. for amphibious operations, the configuration may incorporate several USVs and AUVs, as well as one or two dozen mine killers on the same mine countermeasures vessel.