The Royal Navy’s switch to the minehunters of tomorrow has begun in earnest with the first crew formed to take automated boats on operations.
Fresh from the delivery of three specialist launches to Clyde Naval Base, mine warfare experts from HMS Shoreham have returned from the Gulf and will re-train to use the new craft and their associated state-of-the-art hunting and sweeping equipment.
Controlled remotely either from a ship or command station on land, Hebe, Harrier and Hazard can be used to detect and classify mines or ordnance dumped in the sea – at speed, without putting sailors and a multi-million-pound warship in danger.
The vastly-experienced team from 1st Mine Countermeasures Squadron Crew 7 have completed numerous tours of duty in the Middle East either in HMS Shoreham or one of her Sandown-class sisters which spend three years at a time operating from Bahrain.
Under the recent Defence Command Plan, the Royal Navy has decided to gradually move to autonomous mine warfare technology.
Instead of returning to take charge of another Sandown-class ship for UK-based operations the mine warfare specialists will get to grips with the new launches.
“I am extremely proud of the work of this crew over the last 14 years, especially during operations in the Gulf,” said Lieutenant Commander Dafydd Bryden, MCM1 Crew 7’s Commanding Officer.
“We are a team who are absolutely focussed on our readiness to defeat mines, anywhere and at any time. We do this by being at the cutting-edge of tactics and technology. It is an exciting and natural progression for many of this crew to move on and spearhead the development of this new capability.”
Among the veterans embracing the tech revolution is Petty Officer Chris Proctor, Operations Room Supervisor. He said the transition represents a chance to be a part of the future of mine warfare.
“After seven years working with the Sandown community, times are changing with the future of mine warfare now clearly on the horizon,” he added.
“Though I do not expect the transition to be free of teething problems I am excited to get to work with the new systems and be part of the future of mine warfare.”
Fellow mine warfare specialist Able Seaman Adam Holmes is also part of the transition. “I am excited to be part of the first team to work with the new systems. I am looking forward to taking on the new challenges that it will present to me, as well as learning more about the capabilities it will bring to the Royal Navy.”
Using the three new boats, he and other mine warfare experts can coordinate and control the boats or monitor autonomous offboard sensors.