DGA press release
The SLAM-F program, under the project management of the DGA, will replace all current mine warfare platforms (Tripartite-class mine hunters, sonar towing vessels, diver support vessels). The SLAM-F program will help secure the deployment of the French Navy’s strategic units (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, 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 (known as MMCM in the UK), is the result of a Franco-British cooperation and is part of the Lancaster House military agreement (2010). The contract for the design, development and production of the prototypes (one per country) was signed in March 2015 between Thales and OCCAR on behalf of the two countries.
The architecture of an MMCM system is composed of two USVs, one equipped with a towed sonar and the other with a remotely operated robot (ROV), and two UAVs, responsible for detecting, classifying and locating mines. The remotely operated robot is used to identify and neutralize mines. ECA, a Thales subcontractor, produces the UAVs equipped with Thales sonars.
This new system offers a number of advantages: greater discretion in mine clearance operations, reduced human presence in the mine field , triple the depth of intervention (up to 300 meters below the surface), and better image quality thanks to the new-generation sonar onboard the underwater drones. The system can be deployed either from land or from a mine warfare vessel.
The naval mine countermeasures drone system prototype will allow the French Navy to evaluate 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 in accordance with the French Military Planning Act (LPM). The order for the retrofit of the prototype and the acquisition of the other three systems was placed by OCCAR with Thales on November 16, 2020, on behalf of DGA.
Naval News comments
The prototype has just completed its first sea trials after being delivered to the DGA announced the Naval Chief of Staff, Admiral Pierre Vandier.
The unmanned surface vessel of the SLAMF/MMCM program carried out a demonstration of its capabilities in Brest harbor in June 2019.
The SLAMF program includes:
- 8x Unmanned systems (details below) including 4 to be delivered by 2024
- 6x motherships for UAV/USV/UUV known as “bâtiments de guerre des mines” (BGDM)
- 5x EOD divers support vessels known as “bâtiments base plongeurs démineurs nouvelle generation” (BBPD NG)
- 1x Mine Warfare Data Operating System (SEDGM)
Each of the “unmanned systems” mentioned above represents a mine warfare module consisting of:
- 1x Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), to identify and neutralize sea mines.
- 3x Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV),
- 2x Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), to detect, classify and locate (DCL functions) the mines.
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 current military planning law (LPM) called for the procurement of two BGDM and three BBPD NG ships but following the review, only one of each is still in effect because of the COVID-19 pandemic.