Expanding MCM to ships of opportunity
In military operations, creativity and flexibility are often two essential qualities for success. This is a well-understood need by Exail, which offers its modular MCM (Mine Countermeasures) systems to be installed on Crafts of opportunity.
For MCM Missions, it is possible to operate several types of drones and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) from specialized military vessels, as chosen by the Belgian and Royal Netherland’s navies for their rMCM (replacement Mine Countermeasures) program.
However, many customers want to quickly benefit from a turnkey MCM capability that can be adapted on an existing ship.
This is precisely what Exail is currently doing with the Royal Netherland’s Navy under the OT&E contract. For the customer, the implementation of a modular solution pending the entry into service of the full rMCM system is a good way to evaluate some components of the future operational system. The rMCM toolbox is a complete mission system based on autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), unmanned surface vehicle (USV), and remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
In 2021, the Royal Netherland’s Navy leased an offshore civil supply vessel, the Geo Sea, for the implementation of a modular MCM solution provided by Exail. “Our entire system fits into five 20-foot containers”, explains Viet Hung Doan, Program Manager at Exail. Equipped in this way, the Geo Sea becomes a fully-fledged MCM vessel. “This modular solution includes a Command and Control (C2) center equipped with UMISOFT mission software and all the necessary communication tools. The other containers are dedicated to the storage and maintenance of Exail’s UMIS system vehicles.”
“We can tailor our offer according to each client’s needs,” explains Viet Hung Doan. “For instance, our turnkey solution can include a Command and Control unit, a floating dock, the A18-M AUV, Seascan and K-Ster C ROVs, and an Inspector 125 USV,” he adds.
“This plug-and-play solution has several advantages. The first is to provide a quickly available MCM capability that can be adapted to an existing vessel, provided that the vessel has enough deck space to accommodate the containers and is equipped with a crane for the deployment of vehicles. The second advantage of our solution is its ability to be transferred from one vessel to another. Therefore, dry-docking the carrier vessel does not result in temporary loss of MCM capability.”
“Lastly, our modular solution can also be deployed from land, if necessary,” concludes Viet Hong Doan. This contract allows Exail to have a unique return on experience on the implementation of a containerized drone system for underwater mine countermeasures from a Craft Of Opportunity Program (COOP), a type of ship that other major navies such as the Royal Navy or the Royal Australian Navy are also considering using.