The French Directorate General of Armaments (DGA, Direction générale de l’armement) notified the Norwegian manufacturer Kongsberg Maritime of a contract for the implementation by the French Navy of the Autonomous Unmanned Vehicle (AUV) HUGIN Superior which can operate up to 6,000 metres deep. As part of this strategy, in October 2022 the French Navy conducted a first campaign to implement an exploratory capacity for ‘deep sea’ underwater drones. This contract, notified on August 12, 2022 and for a maximum amount of around four million Euros, includes several trips to the sea. It is part of the exploratory capacity of the ministerial strategy for controlling funds sailors.
The DGA Naval Techniques centre of expertise and testing was involved in the specification of the requirement and will also participate in the feedback from these missions with a view to the future specification of the means that will be developed for the needs of the French Navy. The objective sought to have autonomous submarine systems capable of operating in great depths. This first campaign consisted of a deployment of the hydrographic and oceanographic ship Beautemps-Beaupré from Brest, with the vehicle HUGIN Superior. With these campaigns, the DGA and the French Navy will be able to refine and then define their concept of employment.
Developed based on the existing HUGIN technology platform, the HUGIN Superior underwater vehicle is a hydrodynamic shape. It has a length of approximately 6.6m and weighs 2,200kg. Introduced in December 2018, the HUGIN Superior system provides enhanced data, positioning and endurance capabilities in various defence applications such as underwater survey, covert rapid environment assessment (REA), and mine countermeasures (MCM). The AUV is stored and shipped in a DNV 2.7-1-certified offshore container, while its launch and recovery is performed using a single-stage stinger.
The AUVs under HUGIN family are available in operating depth ratings of 1,000m, 3,000m, 4,500m, and 6,000m. The vehicles can be configured with different payload sensors for diverse applications. The HUGIN platform was developed by a partnership between KONGSBERG, Statoil, Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and Norsk Undervannsintervensjon (NUI). It was chosen by the Royal Norwegian Navy, Indonesian Navy, Polish Navy, and a number of survey providers. HUGIN Superior AUV is equipped with a HISAS 1032 dual-receiver synthetic aperture sonar (SAS), which produces 1,000m swath at 2.5kt for high-resolution SAS imagery of approximately 5cm x 5cm.