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Mine-hunting ‘mother ship’ in Plymouth for conversion

A specialist ship acquired to support Royal Navy mine-hunting operations by launching drones to find and destroy undersea threats has arrived in Plymouth for conversion. When deployed, the vessel will help keep UK waters safe from the threat of mines at sea, operating a range of uncrewed systems that will help keep personnel at a safe distance.

Based at His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, the 96.8 metre-long vessel will work side-by-side with autonomous mine-hunting systems already operated by the Royal Navy under Project Wilton. The ship is intended to enter service in the northern spring of 2023.

Purchased from Island Offshore for £40 million ($72 million), the vessel is currently named MV Island Crown, but will be renamed as she joins the fleet. She arrived at HMNB Devonport to undergo minimal conversion work, primarily to support installation of military communication systems and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) operations, before being handed over to the RFA later this year. Once militarised, she will play a key role in countering the evolving threats posed by mines at sea.

“This vessel will play a crucial role in the detection of undersea threats, keeping our personnel out of harm’s way while they conduct vital operations,” said UK Defence Procurement Minister, Alex Chalk KC.

Delivered at pace, the capability will assure freedom of access for UK ships and submarines (including the Continuous At Sea Deterrent), while reducing risk to personnel.

Operated by specialist teams on board, these innovative systems will allow the Royal Navy to protect UK waters, also providing support to the North Atlantic and European waters if required.

“The delivery of this ship is an important step in the Navy’s transformation to conducting mine countermeasures using distributed offboard systems-of-systems,” said Commodore Steve Prest, Director Navy Acquisition. “The ship will be used to extend the range of our Maritime Autonomous Systems from coastal waters to conducting offshore survey operations in Defence of the homeland.”

The uncrewed systems will include the joint French-UK Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) system, the Combined Influence Sweep(SWEEP) system and Medium Underwater Autonomous Vehicles (MAUVs).

Image: Crown Copyright – UK Ministry of Defence

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