British Navy to receive three SWEEP autonomous minesweepers

According to information published by the British Navy on January 29, 2021, the British Royal Navy is set to receive three SWEEO world-class autonomous minesweepers to work on mine disposal operations and reduce the risk to sailors on these dangerous missions. Thanks to its cutting-edge technology, the system, known as a Combined Influence Sweep (Sweep), can defeat modern digital sea mines which can pose risks by detecting and targeting passing ships and submarines.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Each SWEEP system comprises an Autonomous Surface Vessel that tows a sensor unit behind it. (Picture source British Navy)

A new autonomous vessel is at the heart of each of the three systems. It can neutralize many types of seas mines using equipment towed behind the boat that can generate a variety of simulated magnetic, acoustic and electric ship signatures to initiate the mine.

The whole system can be controlled remotely, either based at sea or on land and can be deployed quickly when needed.

Designed and manufactured by Atlas Elektronik UK in Dorset under a £13 million (US$17.3 million) contract with the Ministry of Defence, (MoD) and following a period of successful trials, the demonstrator of a new, unmanned minesweeping system was delivered to the British Royal Navy in August 2018.

The SWEEP will provide new technologies of autonomous minehunter solutions and will provide the British Navy with increased operational capabilities to counter modern mine threats. The system is able to defeat modern digital sea mines which can detect and target military ships passing overhead. The sweeper system, which features a ‘sense and avoid’ capability, could also work together with other similar autonomous systems.

The latest investment in the Britsih Royal Navy’s minehunting operations comes just weeks after the navy announced it would be investing in three autonomous maritime mine countermeasures (MMCM) systems.

Both Sweep and the MMCM can work together to defeat the threat posed by sea mines to make international waters safer. The first Sweep system will be delivered in late 2022, after which they will enter operational evaluation before entering service at a date to be determined.

Each SWEEP system comprises an Autonomous Surface Vessel that tows a sensor unit behind it. The unit uses magnetic, acoustic and electric technology to identify and neutralize different types of sea mines. The system is controlled by a Portable Command Centre which can be based at sea or on land.

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