UK Royal Navy autonomous minehunter arrives in the Gulf for operational evaluation

by Kate Tringham

RNMB Harrier 's deployment to Bahrain for operational evaluation represents a significant step in the RN's journey towards autonomous minehunting operations. (UK MOD Crown copyright)

The UK Royal Navy's (RN's) autonomous minehunter RNMB Harrier has arrived in Bahrain to start operational evaluations, as part of the service's Mine Hunting Capability (MHC) programme.

Harrier, a modular 11 m ARCIMS mine countermeasures (MCM) unmanned surface vessel (USV) developed by Atlas Elektronik UK (AEUK), is the first unit of MHC equipment to be fielded in the Gulf – marking a significant milestone for the programme.

The USV forms part of the mission packages being developed under the initial Block 1 increment of the wider MHC programme, which aims to transition the RN from a ship-based MCM capability to one based around the use of maritime autonomous offboard systems.

During operation, Harrier will be deployed from LSD (A) RFA Cardigan Bay to conduct a series of demonstrations to prove its ability to operate in the region's harsh weather conditions. According to the RN, the trials will lay the foundations for complementary autonomous mission equipment becoming available in the near future.


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Naval Group launches first new Belgian MCMV, lays down third

by Kate Tringham & Guy Toremans

Naval Group launched the Belgian Navy's first new mine countermeasures vessel, named Oostende (M 940), at Piriou shipyard in Concarneau, France, on 29 March. (Naval Group)

French shipbuilder Naval Group launched the first of 12 mine-countermeasures vessels (MCMVs) on order for the Belgian and Netherlands (BE/NL) navies and laid the keel for the third ship during a ceremony at Piriou shipyard in Concarneau, France, on 29 March.

First-of-class Oostende (M 940) and third ship Tournai (M 941) are the first two ships of the new City class that are destined for the Belgian Navy under the joint BE/NL next-generation offboard MCM replacement (rMCM) programme.

The Belgian-led rMCM programme is being delivered by Belgium Naval & Robotics – a consortium of Naval Group and Exail (formerly ECA Group) – under a contract awarded in May 2019. The contract includes the supply of 12 2,800-tonne displacement mother ships (six for each navy) and an MCM ‘toolbox' totalling around 100 unmanned or autonomous systems that will equip the vessels.

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First Spanish S-80 Plus submarine completes first static dive

by Kate Tringham

The Spanish Navy's first S-81 Plus submarine, Isaac Peral , conducted its first static dive test on 30 March 2023. (Navantia)

The Spanish Navy's first new S-80 Plus diesel-electric submarine (SSK) has achieved another milestone with the completion of its first static dive test.

First-of-class Isaac Peral (S-81) conducted its first static immersion in the waters of La Algameca naval station, opposite the Spanish Navy's diving centre in Cartagena, on 30 March. The test follows the successful completion of surface navigation trials in mid-2022.

Isaac Peral's sea acceptance tests are expected to be completed by mid-2023, when the boat will be handed over to the Spanish Navy.

Isaac Peral is one of four S-80 Plus submarines being built by Navantia for the Spanish Navy under a contract awarded in 2004. Laid down at Navantia's facilities in Cartagena in 2007 and launched in 2021 following multiple delays, the lead submarine was finally put to sea for the first time in May 2022.

Meanwhile, construction work on second-in-class Narciso de Monturiol

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US Navy exercises second AN/SPY-6(V) radar option

by Michael Fabey

An artist's rendition of the Flight III DDG 51 shows the new AN/SPY-6(V) radar antenna array. (Huntington Ingalls Industries)

The US Navy (USN) awarded Raytheon Technologies a USD619 million contract to continue producing AN/SPY-6(V) radars, the company confirmed on 29 March, exercising the second option from the March 2022 hardware, production, and sustainment contract that is valued up to USD3 billion over five years.

The work is expected to be completed by September 2026, the Department of Defense (DoD) said. About USD470.6 million in fiscal year (FY) 2023 USN shipbuilding and conversion funds and another USD148.6 million in other FY 2023 navy procurement funds will be obligated at the time of award, the DoD said.

“[AN/SPY-6(V)] integration into the US fleet is well under way, with SPY-6 operating on the navy's first, new Flight III destroyer,” Kim Ernzen, president of Naval Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, said in a statement. “This contract enables the radar to be added to more ships including the first of existing Flight IIA destroyers that will be modernised.”

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