While the French industry lags behind other nations in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), Naval Group wants to stay ahead of the game in unmanned naval systems. Following the surprise unveiling of their XLUUV project last year, Naval News has learned today that the French naval shipbuilder is also working actively on unmanned surface vessels.
Naval Group’s subsidiary Sirehna is currently upgrading an existing vessel, the Sterenn Du, in Brest. The vessel belongs to the French defense procurement agency (DGA) and is being leased to Naval Group.
Aymeric Moullart de Torcy, business development senior manager for unmanned systems at Naval Group explained:
“It is a MUSV but it will be used to develop LUSV concepts. We did not have a large platform available therefore we are using a medium one which was available. Upgrade work started in June 2022 in Brest and it will be completed in Lorient. Upon completion of the upgrade, the goal is to sail the vessel autonomously to the Mediterranean sea […] It will be used to develop technologies and concepts for large USVs”
These concepts could include man-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) and unmanned arsenal ship controlled by a manned vessel. The mission bay aboard the Sterenn Du will be used to test the autonomous launch and recovery of UUVs and smaller USVs (such as the Mantas by MARTAC for example).
The autonomy package includes a mast fitted with a radar, day/night cameras, communication systems. It is being installed and integrated by Sirehna who has a long time experience in this field.
The project is self funded by the French shipbuilder, which was already the case for the XLUUV project.
About Sterenn Du
The Sterenn Du (Black Star in Breton) is a 17 meters long, 7.5 meters wide aluminum hull catamaran displacing 25 tons. It was launched in Lorient in 2010 and was originally designed for the ESPADON program of the DGA. It was designed to be optionally manned and to test towed mine warfare sonars as well as the launch and recovery of UUVs.
Update 21 September 2022 – Naval Group contacted Naval News to add the following:
The Steren Du is part of a partnership between Naval Group and the DGA (French MoD) covering naval innovations. Naval Group is in charge on its self funding R&D to make this ship fully autonomous aiming to get in 2023 an Unmanned Surface vessel which could integrate naval technologies and test them at sea. With such a development Naval Group is accelerating its oceanic USV roadmap.