Procurement Agency experimenting naval drones as the future of anti-mine
French Defense Procurement Agency (DGA - Direction générale
de l’armement) explores the possibilities offered by the use of
surface and undersea unmanned vehicles to counter the threat of the
naval mines. The innovative concept of "a drone carrying drones"
studied in the research study "Espadon (Swordfish)" offers
particularly promising solutions. Experiments have been conducted at
sea since 2011, in favor of the DGA and the French Navy, off Brest.
Espadon is preparing the SLAMF program to replace the existing anti-mine
warfare assets of the French Navy by 2020. Indeed mines are present
in all maritime conflicts - most recently in Libya - to obstruct military
or commercial traffic. Mines present a very wide range, from the most
rudimentary to the most sophisticated, and they can be laid by unspecialized
means to a depth of about 300 meters.
Du unmanned surface vehicle, the "mother ship" for AUVs
aims to evaluate a system capable of processing vast maritime and coastal
areas, in a discreet way and without exposing personnel to the danger.
The system is composed of an unmanned surface vehicle (USV), the “Sterenn
Du” (“Black Star” in Breton), equipped with launch
and recovery systems, and of two types of autonomous underwater vehicles
(AUV) aboard Sterenn Du, for the detection and identification of the
The DGA awarded Espadon in July 2009 to DCNS, Thales Underwater Systems
and ECA. The Sterenn Du was launched in December 2010. The ability to
launch and recover AUVs was tested in 2011. Full automation and remote
control from the shore were also demonstrated. In the second half of
2012, the first type of AUV, dedicated to the identification of the
threats, is being tested. Eventually, in 2013-2014, the second type
of AUV, dedicated to the autonomous detection and classification of
mines, will be tested off the coast of Brittany.