The General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) received the prototype of a naval anti-mine drone system in Brest on November 25, 2021. This system brings together underwater and surface drones and must allow sailors to operate remotely from a danger zone.
This prototype is part of the SLAM-F (future naval mine action system) program, which is intended to renew the entire French mine warfare capability.
This system is also the product of a Franco-British technological cooperation called MMCM ( Maritime mines counter-measures ).
Following operational evaluations of the prototype, the first four production drone systems will be delivered by 2024 in line with the Military Programming Law (LPM).
The SLAM-F program, placed under the project management of the DGA, should eventually replace all current mine warfare resources (tripartite mine hunters, sonar towing vessels, mine-clearing diver base buildings) . The SLAM-F program will help secure the implementation of the strategic units of the French Navy (nuclear missile-launching submarines (SSBNs), aircraft carriers) and protect access to French ports. It can also support the deployment of a naval action force, secure the evacuation of nationals by sea, participate in crisis prevention or intervene in a contested environment.
This first part of the SLAM-F program, called MMCM, is the result of Franco-British cooperation and is part of the Lancaster House military agreement (2010). The contract for the design, development and production of prototypes (one per country) was signed in March 2015 between Thales and OCCAR on behalf of the two countries.
The basic architecture of an MMCM system is made up of two surface drones (USV), one equipped with a towed sonar and the other with a remotely operated robot (ROV), and two sub-drones. sailors (AUV), responsible for detecting, classifying and locating mines. The remotely operated robot (ROV) makes it possible to identify and neutralize mines. A subcontractor to Thales, the company Études et Constructions Aéronautiques (ECA) manufactures underwater drones equipped with Thales sonars.
The advantages of this new system are multiple: greater discretion in demining operations, a limitation of the human presence near the threat, a tripled depth of intervention (up to 300 meters deep) and better quality of ‘images thanks to the new generation sonar on board the underwater drones. The system can be operated either from land or from a mine warfare vessel.
The prototype naval anti-mine drone system will enable the French Navy to carry out assessments and acquire a new capability. Upon completion, it will be retrofitted to become one of the first four operational systems to be delivered to the Navy by 2024. The order for the retrofit of the prototype and the acquisition of the other three systems was placed by the ” OCCAR at Thales on November 16, 2020 on behalf of the DGA.