ECA Group has announced the release of the INSPECTOR 120, the latest unmanned surface vessel (USV) in the company’s range of robotic and autonomous systems for naval applications, including mine counter measures.
ECA Group’s previous flagship USV, the INSPECTOR 90, is 9 meters long and is able to carry Mine Identification and Destruction Systems (MIDS) and to automatically deploy these underwater robots for identification (SEASCAN) and neutralization (K-STER C) of sea mines. It can also carry two sonars, one on its front arm for very shallow operations and a TOWSCA towed sonar for underwater mine detection. It has the ability to perform all underwater mine clearance missions, from mine detection to destruction. This USV can also be used as a radio relay between other unmanned systems such as AUVs and UAVs and the mothership for the transmission of remote commands and sonar or video data.
The INSPECTOR 90 has been successfully demonstrated in Belgium as part of a Belgian-Dutch acquisition program for 12 mine hunters equipped with unmanned systems for which a call for tender is currently open.
The new generation of minehunting vessels carries larger underwater unmanned systems for greater endurance and better performances. With the evolution of operational constraints and increasing recommendations regarding safety of crew, the ability to deploy underwater robots from a USV is a common requirement. To address this need, ECA Group, aided by its subsidiary BE MAURIC, has designed the INSPECTOR 120, a 12 m long USV.
The INSPECTOR 120 includes all the features that made the INSPECTOR 90 a success with greater endurance, a higher payload capacity and superior nautical performances. It has been designed to automatically deploy ECA Group unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) such as the A18-M, T18-M towed sonars, and other systems. The hull of the INSPECTOR 120 is a best compromise for sea keeping, both in transit and at very low speeds for launching and recovery of UUVs. Thanks to dedicated Launch And Recovery Systems (LARS) also proposed by ECA Group, INSPECTOR 120 can be deployed from any vessel of length 50m and beyond.
The design of this USV is a result of a study on a comprehensive range of ship platforms capable of carrying different configurations of ECA Group’s UMISTM systems for MCM missions. Thus, BE MAURIC recently introduced the design of its new family of robot-carrying vessels, each of these naval platforms being suitable for carrying a typical UMISTM system configuration.
The launching and recovery of USVs in sea state 4 or 5 is an important criterion for MCM vessels. INSPECTOR USVs are designed for the best possible integration with minehunter vessels and BE MAURIC is working on the optimization of this integration as well as on automated recovery of USVs. The results of this work will also be presented during the upcoming EURONAVAL exhibition.
The INSPECTOR 120 can also be adapted to specific sensor payload needs or customer performance requirements.