Royal Navy tests remote-controlled minehunter in Portsmouth

Tests of the submersible mine countermeasures vehicle
Tests of the submersible mine countermeasures vehicle

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A remote-controlled boat that can search, hunt and destroy mines is being tested in Portsmouth by the Royal Navy.

The Hazard minehunter can act as the “mother ship” to an assortment of hi-tech remote-controlled and robotic submersibles.

Collectively, they can search, hunt and destroy mines faster then those previously used by the Navy and have the added benefit of keeping the sailors required to operate them out of harm’s way.

Modified versions of the same systems are also being looked at to carry out survey operations such as those performed by HMS Echo, which has been helping in the underwater search for the black box from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Hazard is being put through its paces by a specialist team of sailors at Portsmouth Naval Base.

The boat, which is able to be transported by an RAF Hercules, carries either the bright yellow torpedo-sized Remus 600 or the much smaller Remus 100, which are sent off to scan the seabed at depths of up to 600 or 100 metres respectively.

After several hours in the water scanning the ocean floor, the submersibles return to their mother ships and the data is then collected downloaded and analysed by the Navy’s mine warfare experts.

Lieutenant Commander Jack McWilliams, Officer in Command of the Maritime Autonomous System Trials Team (MASTT), which is testing the new technology, said: “This will be the seafaring equivalent of the unmanned aircraft which have revolutionised aerial warfare.

“It takes the sailor out of the minefield, but we are not taking them out of the equation. You will still need individuals with specialist mine warfare and hydrographic skills, a human being to identify a contact, but they will be much safer, and this is a much more effective way of doing our job.

“This technology is fantastic - and we are right at the forefront of it.”