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autonomous minesweeping system

Autonomous minesweepers ordered for Royal Navy

Image credit: MOD Defence Equipment and Support

Dorset-based Atlas Elektronik UK is to build three advanced autonomous minesweeping systems for the Royal Navy under a £25m contract announced by the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

The Combined Influence Minesweeping (SWEEP) system will be the Royal Navy’s first uncrewed minesweeper, enabling sailors to clear mined areas from a remote and safe distance at sea while on operations worldwide.

The contract follows a separate order announced last November for autonomous minehunters, which are used to actively seek out and destroy mines.

SWEEP is a complementary system. Its innovative technology can defeat modern digital sea mines that can detect and target ships and submarines passing above them. It has been put through a series of trials to prove its capabilities, including in cold-weather conditions in Canadian waters.

Each SWEEP system comprises an autonomous surface vessel capable of towing a variety of equipment to generate combinations of magnetic, acoustic and electric signatures that mimic passing ships and neutralise different types of sea mines.

The system is controlled by a portable command centre, which can be based at sea or on land.

Atlas Elektronik developed the technology in the UK. It can be rapidly deployed by land, sea and air and will offer increased protection to military and commercial vessels.

Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “This next-generation autonomous technology will be instrumental to our goal of protecting the safety and security of our personnel, while also reaffirming the UK’s unwavering commitment to improve the safety of international waters.”

The first system will be delivered in late 2022 and will enter operational evaluation before service at a later date.

The Royal Navy currently operates crewed Hunt class and Sandown class minehunters, but these are expected to be retired within the next 10-15 years. Sea mines continue to be a threat around the world, notably in the Gulf of Aden.

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