The minister was able to observe in particular the SLAMF / MMCM (Système de Lutte Anti-Mines du Futur / Maritime Mine Counter Measures) results from a Franco-British cooperation initiated in 2010 as part of the Lancaster House agreement.
The Minister gave some figures in her speech about the SLAMF system.
“This system will enable us to detect objects the size of a credit card – 30 times smaller than with our current systems. Our detection and neutralization capacity will be able to dive to 300 metres, compared to only 100 metres with our current means. It is also a considerable time saver: the system will be able to be deployed in less than 48 hours anywhere in the world, and will be able to map the seabed three times faster than today thanks to the Thales multi-beam sonar. The system can be operated by our sailors 12 nautical miles from the minefield, which is considerable.”Florence Parly, French Minister of Armed Forces.
Finally, the minister announced that if the schedule is respected, new unmanned systems will be delivered to France within the framework of the 2019-2025 military programming law.
“I am therefore pleased to announce that if the technical demonstrations and negotiations continue as planned, we will order 4 unmanned systems for France in the second half of the year. They are scheduled to enter operational service in 2023.”Florence Parly, French Minister of Armed Forces.
Each of the four “unmanned systems” mentioned by the Minister represent a mine warfare module consisting of:
- 1 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), the Multi-Shot Mine Neutralization System by Saab, to identify and neutralize sea mines.
- 3 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), the Espadon (Swordfish) by ECA Group with Thales payloads
- 2 Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), the C-Sweep by L3Harris ASV equipped with a towed sonar (the TSAM by Thales), to detect, classify and locate (DCL functions) the mines.
The unmanned surface vessel of the SLAMF/MMCM program carried out a demonstration of its capabilities in Brest harbor in June 2019.
For the record, the French Navy is set to take delivery of 8 SLAMF modules by 2030 as well as 4 to 6 motherships for UAV/USV/UUV known as “bâtiments de guerre des mines” (BGDM) and 5 EOD divers support vessels known as “bâtiments base plongeurs démineurs nouvelle generation” (BBPD NG). The motherships will displace between 3,000 and 4,000 tons with a length close to 90 meters. It will take sailors “out of the mine field” in a similar fashion to the MCM replacement program of the Belgian and Dutch navies. Both programs are replacing the Tripartite-class MCM vessels. We were told in the past that the BGDM could feature a well deck to ease the launch and recovery of USVs and UUVs.
The initial mine warfare modules will be land based and deployed directly from the naval bases, especially in Brest which is close to the French Navy’s SSBN fleet. Initial operational capacity (IOC) of the first system is set for 2023.