The future of mine hunting has come to Faslane with the arrival of a new Autonomous Mine Counter Measures vessel. Part of the First Mine Counter Measures Squadron (MCM1), the Wilton team are charged with introducing this cutting-edge technology into the Royal Navy. The new boat, RNMB Harrier, will be operated by Project Wilton, a recently formed Maritime Autonomous Systems (MAS) team based out of HM Naval Base Clyde. RNMB Harrier arrived on the Clyde on Friday, August 14, and was straight into a week-long familiarisation and training package delivered by prime contractor, ATLAS Elektronik UK (AEUK).
The Wilton team and the Royal Navy took formal ownership of this capability today (August 21) and will now work towards Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in September. RNMB Harrier can operate in three modes – manually, remotely and autonomously – giving a large range of flexibility to deploy either Towed Side Scan Sonar systems or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. The new system offers greater flexibility to deploy around the world where it can be quickly set-up for survey and mine hunting operations. Primarily a capability demonstrator, Project Wilton and RNMB Harrier are supporting the development of Maritime Autonomous Systems to ensure the Royal Navy remains at the forefront of technology and innovation.
RNMB Harrier has joined her sister-vessel RNMB Hazard which has been in operation for around 18-months, initially being put through its paces by the Royal Navy’s Maritime Autonomous Systems Trials Team (MASTT) prior to transferring to Project Wilton. The third and final Wilton boat, RNMB Hebe, is due to arrive in Spring next year. At 15 metres she is larger than the 11-meter-long Harrier and contains a Portable Operations Centre Afloat that allows her to control Harrier and Hazard while also co-ordinating autonomous operations. By 2022 the system will “gain teeth” after continued development into a fully operational Mine Counter Measures system capable of removing bottom objects and neutralising explosive ordnance.