Mine-hunting ‘mother ship’ arrives in Plymouth

Mine-hunting ‘mother ship’ arrives in Plymouth

New ship to house autonomous mine hunting systems arrives at HMNB Devonport. The vessel must undergo a conversion period before joining the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Intended to be operational in the spring of 2023.

A specialist ship bought to support Royal Navy mine hunting operations – a mother ship to launch drones to find and destroy undersea threats – arrived in Plymouth today.

When deployed, the platform will support the securing of British waters against the threat of mines at sea, operating a range of unmanned systems that will help keep personnel at a safe distance.

Based at His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, the 96.8 meter vessel – the length of two Olympic swimming pools – will work alongside autonomous mine hunting systems already operated by the Royal Navy from Faslane under Project Wilton.

The vessel, purchased from Island Offshore, currently named MV Island Crown but due to be renamed as it joins the fleet – arrived at HMNB Devonport, where it will undergo minimal conversion work, mainly to install military communications systems and Royal Fleet Supporting Auxiliary (RFA) operations, before handing over to the RFA later this year.

Defense Procurement Minister Alex Chalk KC said:

This is another important step forward in modernizing the Royal Navy’s capabilities and using autonomous systems to complement our manned fleet.

This vessel will play a crucial role in detecting undersea threats, keeping our personnel out of harm’s way while they carry out essential operations.

The capability will be delivered at a pace, and will ensure freedom of access for UK ships and submarines (including the Continuous At Sea Deterrent), while vitally reducing the risk to personnel.

These innovative systems, operated by specialist crews on board, will enable the Royal Navy to protect British waters, and also provide support to North Atlantic and European waters if required.

Commodore Steve Prest, Director Navy Acquisition, said:

The delivery of this ship is an important step in the Navy’s transformation to conduct mine countermeasures using distributed offshore systems-of-systems.

The ship will be used to extend the range of our Maritime Autonomous Systems from coastal waters to conducting offshore survey operations in Homeland Defense.

The unmanned systems will include the joint Franco-UK Maritime Mine Countermeasures (MMCM) system, the Combined Influence Sweep (SWEEP) system and Medium Underwater Autonomous Vehicles (MAUVs).

The purchase of the £40 million ship was carried out by Defense Equipment and Support (DE&S), the procurement arm of the MOD.

DE&S Director General Ships, Vice Admiral Paul Marshall, said:

Our team undertook extensive research and market analysis to identify a vessel for the Royal Navy that would meet the essential capability it needed, and could be delivered at pace, while also providing value for money to the taxpayer.

The result of that agile work is the delivery of a highly efficient ship which will be converted at HMNB Devonport. Once militarized, it will play a key role in countering the evolving threats posed by mines at sea.

The ship is intended to enter service in the spring of 2023.

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