Take the Sailor Out of the Minefield

By Captain George Galdorisi, U.S. Navy (Retired)

In a recent article published in USNI’s Proceedings, Captain George Galdorisi, U.S. Navy (Retired) addressed how USV’s could be used to deal with the critical threat to maritime forces posed by sea mines.

An excerpt from that article follows:

“One system that performed well during these MCM events was the T38 Devil Ray catamaran-hull USV. The Devil Ray could provide an over-the-horizon “single sortie detect-to-engage” MCM capability. One of its key attributes is its aft-mounted tow station, which can house either a towed mine-hunting sonar or a mine neutralization system (MNS) on a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). These towed subsystems are installed on rails that are incorporated into an angled deck on the stern of the Devil Ray, allowing for an autonomous launch and recovery. Other USVs also could be adapted for the autonomous MCM mission.

“Single-sortie MCM operations would require T38s to work in concert with each other. In a full minefield search scenario, multiple T38s with mine-hunting sonars would be supported by one or two T38s with the MNS neutralization payload.

“The minehunting system employs readily available commercial-off-the-shelf multibeam echo-sounder technology, deployed autonomously through a midship moon pool, embodied in a towed-body-mounted sonar or, in an optimum solution, using both methods concurrently on a single USV. A variety of existing commercial sonars have resolutions sufficient to search for mine-like objects (MLOs). An important feature that the higher-end Teledyne, Norbit, and R2Sonic sonars possess is an automatic target-classification system to identify any detected anomalies as a potential MLO.

“The second component of this commercial-off-the-shelf solution is the mine neutralization system. If detected MLOs are classified as likely mines, the MCM-MNS T38 would transition from hunting to neutralizing through the launch of a tethered ROV such as the Idrobotica Pluto-Plus, which would provide real-time video validation/recognition of previously detected mine-like objects. The Pluto-Plus MNS ROV autonomously executes the MLO route for final classification and man-in-the-loop validation/recognition of each mine-like object as a mine or not. This process is repeated until the field is cleared. This COTS-based MCM solution can perform sweeps around the clock with minimal human intervention, allowing for a safe and effective MCM solution.”