AUVs launched from unmanned vessels within French mine warfare program

Espadon, a French mine warfare demonstration program which brought together DCNS, Thales, and ECA Group, resulted in the development of a system that enables the world’s first AUV launch and recovery from a USV, ECA Group said.

Completed in May, 2016, the Espadon program was a component of the French MoD overarching Système de Lutte Anti-Mines Futur (SLAMF, future mine countermeasures program).

The aim of the program was to prove that robotic systems could be used for underwater minewarfare operations instead of conventional minehunters with the goal not to expose minehunter crews to considerable danger due to the simple fact that these vessels operate in known mine fields.

ECA Group was in charge of developing robotics which included the remote control system which enabled the launch of an underwater drone from an unmanned surface vessel.

Photo: ECA Group
Photo: ECA Group

As part of the tests conducted, ECA’s A27 and A18-T AUVs were deployed by the Sterenn-Du USV demonstrating that it was possible for USVs to deploy AUVs for full-scale mine countermeasure operations paving the way for the “robotics based” new generation of mine countermeasure systems that some navies have already decided to use.

One of the results of the program is the selection of A27 AUVs for the Anglo-French Maritime Mine Counter Measure (MMCM) program. In addition, ECA Group said the Espadon program has enabled it to develop a solution of interest to the offshore community. This solution allows the recovery of AUVs in high sea states by the use of a sub-sea cage and docking system.