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MHI, Thales to collaborate on sonar technologies for use on MCM AUVs

Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) announced on 30 March that it has signed a research and prototype production contract with Japan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) as part of a five-year French-Japanese project aimed at enhancing the capabilities of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) used for mine countermeasure (MCM) operations.

The project, which follows the signing of the defence co-operation agreement between Direction Générale de l’Armement (DGA – France’s defence procurement agency) – and Japan’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA), will see MHI and Thales work together on the design, development, integration, and testing of dual-frequency, synthetic-aperture, sonar-processing technology for use on MCM-specialised AUVs.

A computer-generated image of MHI’s OZZ-5 autonomous underwater mine countermeasure vehicle. (MHI)

A computer-generated image of MHI’s OZZ-5 autonomous underwater mine countermeasure vehicle. (MHI)

Once completed, the improved autonomous MCM system is expected to be capable of detecting, classifying, and localising all types of mines, including bottom-laid, semi- or fully-buried mines, without being subject to conditions underwater, said Thales in a statement, adding that DGA and ATLA decided to co-operate in this project “in response to the growing threat” posed by mines in coastal areas.

The project aims to combine the low-frequency synthetic aperture sonar mounted on MHI’s OZZ-5 MCM AUV with Thales’ latest high-frequency synthetic aperture sonar – SAMDIS – and, by enhancing the precision of the automatic detection and classification function together with signal processing technology development, achieve synthetic aperture signal processing in real time.

“The smart integration of the high-frequency and low-frequency sonars, coupled with a combined automatic detection and classification function, will not only provide capability and performance enhancement into a single solution but will also mutually benefit each sonar’s processing and imaging,” said Thales.

According to ATLA documents obtained by Janes

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