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June 24, 2021

Final Autonomous Minehunting Boat Delivered to UK Royal Navy

(Photo: UK Royal Navy)

(Photo: UK Royal Navy)

The British Royal Navy said it has taken delivery of its third and final autonomous minehunting boat.

RNMB Hebe, named after the ancient Greek goddess of youth, joins sister vessels Harrier and Hazard as part of the Royal Navy’s crewless minehunting program Project Wilton. Together, the three vessels are key components in the future of minehunting operations for the navy. The boats are capable of working in different configurations – manually, remotely or autonomously – to detect and classify mines and maritime ordnance.

The Project Wilton team are currently undertaking comprehensive trials and a capability development program to ensure they are ready to deliver route survey operations.

Lieutenant Commander Ross Balfour, Officer-in-Charge of Project Wilton, said, “RNMB Hebe is the final piece in the jigsaw of Project Wilton’s maritime capability.

“The vessel is a 15-meter Vahana boat, four-meters longer than the other Project Wilton vessels. AEUK have made significant upgrades resulting in Hebe having an organic command, control and communications capability which allows the autonomous control of her sister vessel Harrier.

“She also has the ability to operate towed sidescan sonar to map the seabed.”

From the relative comfort of Hebe, mine countermeasures experts can coordinate and control the boats or monitor autonomous offboard sensors. They also have the option of controlling the vessels from a land-based remote-control center.

The entire system is highly flexible and rapidly deployable, capable of being loaded onto trucks and transported to wherever it is required to conduct survey and mine hunting operations.

“We are operating at the forefront of technological development and paving the way for follow-on autonomous mine countermeasures capabilities currently in development,” Lt Cdr Balfour added.

“Riding this bow wave of change means the pace of development is high, requiring us to ‘learn by doing’ and constantly questioning the accepted norms. I am certain that my team of highly trained mine warfare experts can meet these challenges and deliver cutting-edge operational capability from this equipment.”

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