A specialist ship bought to support Royal Navy mine-hunting operations – a mother ship to launch drones to find and destroy undersea threats – has arrived in Plymouth today.
When deployed, the platform will support the safeguarding of UK waters from the threat of mines at sea, operating a range of uncrewed systems that will help keep personnel at a safe distance.
Based at His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, the 96.8 metres long vessel – the length of two Olympic swimming pools – will work side-by-side with autonomous mine-hunting systems already operated by the Royal Navy out of Faslane under Project Wilton.
Purchased from Island Offshore, the vessel – 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, primarily to support installation of military communication systems and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) operations, before being handed over to the RFA later this year.
Defence Procurement Minister, Alex Chalk KC, said:
This is another significant step forward in the modernisation of Royal Navy capabilities and use of autonomous systems to complement our crewed fleet.
This vessel will play a crucial role in the detection of undersea threats, keeping our personnel out of harm’s way while they conduct vital operations.
Delivered at pace, the capability will assure freedom of access for the UK ships and submarines (including the Continuous At Sea Deterrent), while crucially reducing risk to personnel.
Operated by specialist teams on board, these innovative systems will allow the Royal Navy to protect UK waters, also providing support to the North Atlantic and European waters if required.
The delivery of this ship is an important step in the Navy’s transformation to conducting mine countermeasures using distributed offboard 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 Defence of the homeland.
The uncrewed systems will include the joint French-UK Maritime Mine Counter Measures (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 Defence 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 vital capability it needs, and could be delivered at pace whilst also provide value for money to the taxpayer.
The result of that agile working is the delivery of a highly effective ship which will be converted to purpose at HMNB Devonport. Once militarised, it will play a key role in countering the evolving threats posed by mines at sea.
The ship is intended to enter service in Spring 2023.