Thales has announced it will be playing a major role in a large Royal Navy demonstration this month to determine the feasibility of using unmanned systems in a maritime environment.
Unmanned Warrior, the largest demonstration of its kind in the UK, will bring together Thales and around 40 participants from the Ministry of Defence, industry and academia to assess unmanned systems in a realistic military setting.
- Unmanned Warrior is the largest exercise of its kind in Europe.
- For the first time Watchkeeper UAS will operate offshore tracking small, fast targets.
- Halcyon USV will be demonstrating its remote mine-hunting capabilities whilst towing a Thales Synthetic Aperture Sonar (T-SAS).
Thales expects to achieve two firsts in the development of its unmanned technology capabilities during the event. The key Thales participants will be the Watchkeeper unmanned air system (UAS) and the Halcyon unmanned surface vessel (USV).
For the first time, Watchkeeper will be deployed in a maritime role using its I-Master radar to track small, fast incoming asymmetric threats, such as jet skis and high speed craft. Watchkeeper has previously only been used for essential land-tracking operations such as Afghanistan. Watchkeeper can offer the Royal Navy an immediate and assured Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance capability with an extended endurance of over 16 hours.
Meanwhile, Halcyon will be demonstrating its remote mine-hunting capabilities after recently completing successful trials of towing a Thales Synthetic Aperture Sonar (T-SAS). Halcyon and T-SAS will be tasked with identifying and mapping undisclosed minefields during the exercise.
The Halcyon USV is being developed as part of the Thales-led consortium solution for the first phase of the Anglo-French Mine Countermeasures programme to assess the future mine warfare capabilities of the UK and French navies.
“We are already a key sensor provider to the Royal Navy, with many of our systems acting as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Fleet. Unmanned Warrior is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate and reinforce the fact that we are also global leaders in the field of autonomous technology and the next chapter of maritime operations,” said Eddie Awang, Thales VP in charge of Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance business.
The trials have proved the ability of the Halcyon and T-SAS offering to beam live, high quality sonar images to shore-based operators over considerable distances.
As the system integrator for the Maritime Autonomous Platform Exploitation (MAPLE) programme, Thales is also working with industry, the Dstl and the Maritime Capability branch of the Royal Navy to research integrated command and control in unmanned vehicles in order to reduce the manpower, space and training burden, while maximising effect potential.
An initial demonstrator combat system, ACER (Autonomous Control Exploitation and Realisation) will be deployed on the vessel Northern River, forming an integral part of the event. This will support the Navy’s longer term ambition of an Open Architecture Combat System across the future surface fleet.
Commander Peter Pipkin, the Fleet Robotics Officer said: “The technologies and concepts being demonstrated in Unmanned Warrior have the potential to fundamentally change the future of Royal Navy operations just as the advent of steam propulsion or submarines did for example. By working closely with a wide range of system providers from defence, industry and academia, Unmanned Warrior has also become the catalyst for a level of discussion and participation that sets the gold standard for collaborative projects.”
Thales is a leading provider of integrated maritime safety and security systems, offering a comprehensive set of capabilities and unrivalled expertise in key components such as sensors, communication, command & control systems and integration.
Watchkeeper is Europe’s largest UAS programme, and the first operationally proven UAS developed and built by Thales, providing real-time, enhanced situational awareness that gives significant contributions to reducing risk and loss of life. Watchkeeper is also the first and only UAS of its type certified to fly in segregated and non-segregated airspace.
Halcyon is an autonomous unmanned surface vessel designed for multi-role operations but particularly suited for mine warfare applications. A new version, M-12, is currently in development as part of the UK/FR Maritime Mine Countermeasures programme, which together with the T-SAS upgraded to include multi aspect sonar views will provide the UK and French navies with a world class unmanned MCM capability.
Thales is a global technology leader for the Aerospace, Transport, Defence and Security markets. With 62,000 employees in 56 countries, Thales reported sales of €14 billion in 2015. With over 25,000 engineers and researchers, Thales has a unique capability to design and deploy equipment, systems and services to meet the most complex security requirements. Its exceptional international footprint allows it to work closely with its customers all over the world.