THE Royal Navy’s autonomous mine hunting programme has achieved another milestone with the arrival on the Clyde of their newest vessel.
RNMB Hebe — named after the ancient Greek goddess of youth — is the third and final Project Wilton boat and has joined sister vessels RNMBs Harrier and Hazard at HM Naval Base Clyde.
Together the vessels make up the key maritime components of the Project Wilton capability, representing a shift in the Royal Navy’s mine-hunting capabilities.
The boats are capable of working in different configurations -– manually, remotely or autonomously -– to detect and classify mines and maritime ordnance.
The Project Wilton team are now undertaking comprehensive trials and a capability development programme to ensure they are ready to deliver survey operations.
“RNMB Hebe is the final piece in the jigsaw of Project Wilton’s maritime capability,” said Lieutenant Commander Ross Balfour, officer-in-charge of Project Wilton.
“The vessel is a 15-metre Vahana boat, four-metres longer than the other Project Wilton vessels. AEUK have made significant upgrades resulting in Hebe having an organic command,
control and communications capability which allows the autonomous control of her sister vessel Harrier. She also has the ability to operate Towed Sidescan Sonar to map the seabed.
“Hebe has fantastic potential and we are working diligently to integrate her impressive capabilities with our existing equipment.”
From the relative comfort of Hebe, mine countermeasures experts can co-ordinate and control the boats or monitor autonomous offboard sensors. They also have the option of controlling the vessels from a land-based remote-control centre.
The entire system is highly flexible and rapidly deployable, capable of being loaded onto trucks and transported to wherever it is required to conduct survey and mine hunting operations.
The team took delivery of RNMB Hebe earlier this month at Kip Marina, Inverkip, sailing her into the Gare Loch flanked by her sister vessels.
“The Wilton team are excited and enthused by the challenge this new capability represents,” continued Lieutenant Commander Balfour. “We are operating at the forefront of technological development and paving the way for follow-on autonomous mine countermeasures capabilities currently in development.
“Riding this bow wave of change means the pace of development is high, requiring us to ‘learn by doing’ and constantly questioning the accepted norms.
“I am certain that my team of highly-trained mine warfare experts can meet these challenges and deliver cutting-edge operational capability from this equipment.”