Navy to deploy £25m autonomous minesweepers

Technology is designed to ‘detect and destroy’

A traditional Navy minesweeping vessel     Credit: US National Archives

The Royal Navy is shortly to deploy its first-ever autonomous minesweeping vessels.

The technology, delivered by the UK arm of German marine technology firm Atlas Elektronik, “will allow personnel to neutralise mines from a remote and safe distance at sea while on operations worldwide”.

Each installation of the SWEEP system includes an autonomous marine vessel, which features a sensor that uses “magnetic, acoustic and electric technology” to detect various types of mine – including “more modern and smarter digital sea mines, which target ships and submarines passing overhead”. 

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In addition to having been developed in the UK, the rollout of the platform will support the creation of about 25 jobs at Atlas’s offices in Dorset, and 50 more in the company’s wider supply chain, according to the government.

The first system, the likes of which has never before been used by the Navy, is due to be implemented by the end of next year. It will then undergo an “operational evaluation” before going into live service.

The £25m contract that the Ministry of Defence has signed with the firm is intended to offer protection for both 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.”


Sam Trendall

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