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

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 โ€“ 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.

Harrier can operate autonomously or remotely from an afloat or ashore-based remote-control centre. It tows a side-scan sonar and in the future will also work with remotely operated unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and a minesweeper.

The RN took delivery of Harrier in August 2021, and since then, it has been operated by the Project Wilton maritime autonomous systems (MAS) team based out of HM Naval Base, Clyde, in Scotland. It is one of five ARCIMS systems ordered by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) from AEUK to date for minehunting and minesweeping tasks (including RNMBs Hussar,Halcyon, Hazard, and Hydra

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