New specialist UK MCM mother ship arrives in Plymouth for conversion

by Kate Tringham

The OSV MV Island Crown sails into Plymouth on 30 January. Ahead of delivery to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the ship will undergo a short period of modifications for its new role as an MCM mother ship, with a view to being operational during the second quarter of 2023. (UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has procured a second-hand Norwegian commercial offshore support vessel (OSV) that will be converted into a mother ship to host offboard autonomous minehunting systems.

The vessel, currently named MV Island Crown, sailed into Plymouth from Norway to start its refit on 30 January. Following its conversion at His Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) Devonport, it will be handed over to the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) and used to support mine countermeasure (MCM) operations around the UK, as well as in North Atlantic and European waters if required. The ship will be based in Scotland at HMNB Clyde, and will work alongside the autonomous minehunting systems already operated from the base by the Royal Navy's (RN's) First Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCM1) under Project ‘Wilton'.

MV Island Crown was

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Brunei commissions ex-Singapore Fearless-class patrol boat

by Ridzwan Rahmat

A file image of a Fearless-class patrol vessel while it was in service with the Republic of Singapore Navy. Singapore has since transferred one of the boats to Brunei. (Singapore Ministry of Defence)

The Royal Brunei Navy (RBN) has commissioned the ex-Singapore Fearless-class patrol vessel it received on 15 March.

The vessel, which has been renamed KDB As-Siddiq with pennant number 95, was commissioned on 21 March at the RBN's naval base in Muara, Brunei.

Janes first reported on 10 March that Brunei has agreed to receive two ex-Singapore Fearless-class patrol boats that were decommissioned by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) in 2019 and 2020.

As-Siddiq is the first of these two vessels, and it was handed over to the RBN on 15 March. It was formerly in service with the RSN as RSS Brave.

A sister vessel is currently undergoing a transfer process and will be known in service with the RBN as KDB Al-Faruq.

As-Siddiq and Al-Faruq are being transferred as a gift, and as a symbol of the close defence relations between the two smallest Southeast Asian countries.


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Ukraine conflict: Netherlands to donate minehunters to Ukraine

by Kate Tringham

HNLMS Schiedam, one of six remaining Alkmaar (Tripartite)-class minehunters in RNLN service. (Michael Nitz – Naval Press Service)

The Ukrainian Navy's mine countermeasures (MCM) capabilities are set to receive another boost with the donation of Dutch Alkmaar (Tripartite)-class minehunters.

While visiting southern Ukraine during the third week of March, Dutch Minister of Defence Kajsa Ollongren confirmed plans to donate two Alkmaar-class minehunters as part of a military aid package that also included drone detection radar systems and an M3 amphibious bridge-building and ferry system.

The two minehunters are planned to be transferred from 2025 when the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) expects to receive the first of six new-generation MCM vessels being procured under the Belgian-Netherlands (BE/NL) replacement MCM (rMCM) programme.

The M3 system and drone detection radar systems will be acquired directly from industry partners.

The Dutch MCM vessels are intended to help clear the Black Sea of mines laid during the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The Netherlands and Belgian navies, and possibly other allies, will also provide training to the Ukrainian crew on how to use the minehunters, starting in the second half of 2023, Ollongren said.

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UK Royal Navy selects Animal Dynamics' parafoil UAV for next phase of Heavy Lift Challenge

by Kate Tringham

A developmental Stork test vehicle going through flight trials. (Animal Dynamics)

Oxford-based Animal Dynamics' Stork STM parafoil unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) has been selected by the UK Royal Navy (RN) to participate in the second phase of its Unmanned Aerial Systems Heavy Lift Challenge (UASHLC).

The Stork STM was selected following a pre-selection flying competition in late 2022, in which it demonstrated the ability to conduct beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) operations and carry a 135 kg payload over a distance of 400 km – meeting the RN's requirements for both intra- and inter-theatre resupply tasks.

The UAV will now progress to the next round of flight trials, which will be carried out over seven days at Predannack Airfield in Cornwall, South West England, starting on 27 March.

As part of the UASHLC effort, the Stork STM will undergo marinisation, including integration of secure satellite communications (satcom) and fitting a sonobuoy dispenser. It will also undergo additional wing development work that includes a retraction capability to make it safe for deck operations, Animal Dynamics said.

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The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has procured a second-hand Norwegian commercial offshore support ve...

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