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Undersea Support Vessel to support RAN undersea system trials

The Australian Department of Defence has acquired an ex-commercial vessel for $110 million which it will convert into an Undersea Support vessel (USV). The USV will be used to support a range of trials and activities leveraging new technologies in the undersea domain, according to the Deputy Secretary Naval Shipbuilding and Sustainment Mr Tony Dalton.

The Norwegian-built MV Normand Jarl (formerly Installer) displaces 7,400tonnes, is 107 metres long and 22 metres wide. She was designed as an offshore support vessel to operate in the notoriously rough North Sea and has been fitted with two high-capacity cranes on her working deck to load and unload stores and equipment. After inspection and certification in Singapore, she will be reflagged as an Australian ship later this year and renamed Australian Defence Vessel (ADV) Guidance.

“ADV Guidance will be instrumental in developing and testing robotic and autonomous underwater systems, ensuring Defence can compete and succeed in a wide variety of complex undersea environments,” Mr Dalton said.

The primary role of ADV Guidance will be to support undersea surveillance systems trials, including the ability to deploy undersea crewed and uncrewed vehicles, and robotic and autonomous systems.

ADV Guidance will be able to sustain a range of Defence activities due to its modular mission systems, allowing specialist Defence teams and load-outs to be embarked to meet various system trial requirements.

The RAN has a number of autonomous and robotic undersea programs under way which ADV Guidance may be able to support:

  • Ghost Shark Extra Large Autonomous Undersea vessel XL-AUV)
  • Project SEA1905 Ph.1 – autonomous mine counter-measures
  • SEA5012 – Integrated Undersea Surveillance System

 EX2 is still awaiting confirmation from Defence that she will support these programs.  Assuming she does, it’s possible she will be homeported on the East Coast of Australia like helicopter training ship MV Sycamore, as the Ghost Shark is being developed in Sydney, much of the RAN’s Mine Counter-Measures (MCM) expertise is located there, the RAN’s autonomous maritime trials program, EX Autonomous Warrior, is usually hosted at Jervis Bay, south of Sydney, and it’s possible that much of the Integrated Surveillance System will be developed and tested in Sydney.

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