United Kingdom gives six underwater drones to Ukraine to hunt mines

According to information published by the UK MoD on August 29, 2022, dozens of Ukrainian personnel are being trained by the Royal Navy to use hi-tech crewless vehicles to help them hunt mines.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 REMUS 300 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle at HII's booth, London. (Picture source: HII)

Side-by-side with sailors from the US Navy, experts from the Diving & Threat Exploitation Group are teaching Ukrainians how to operate the devices, which search large areas of seabed for mines and unexploded ordnance without putting the operators in harm’s way.

The UK is giving six of the underwater drones to Ukraine and training its personnel here in Britain to use them so they can clear their coastline of mines when they return to their homeland.

The lightweight autonomous vehicle is designed for use in shallow coastal environments, operating effectively at depths of up to 100 meters to detect, locate and identify mines using an array of sensors, so the Ukrainian Navy can destroy them.

Dozens of Ukrainian Navy personnel will be taught to use the drones over the coming months, with the first tranche having already begun their training. The Diving & Threat Exploitation Group is delivering three-week training courses, alongside the US Navy Sixth Fleet.

The Royal Navy has considerable experience using small tube-shaped sonar-equipped devices. The training involves launching and recovering the devices at sea, as well as interpretation of the data sent back to identify mock mines.

The Royal Navy is also training Ukrainian sailors to operate Sandown-class minehunters.

A small number of ships carrying grain have left Ukraine since the UN brokered a deal in July to allow food exports, but efforts to get food out of the country continue to be hampered by sea mines left by Russian forces along Ukraine’s coast.

About the Sandown class 

The Sandown class is a class of fifteen minehunters built primarily for the Royal Navy by Vosper Thornycroft. The first vessel was commissioned into Royal Navy service on 9 June 1989 and all the British ships are named after coastal towns and cities.

The Sandown Class is equipped with two underwater PAP 104 mk5 remote-controlled mine-disposal vehicles, supplied by Societe ECA. The vehicle is controlled via a 2,000 m fiber-optic cable.

A lighting system, low light level black and white camera and a color camera are fitted. The vehicle is also fitted with high-resolution sonar. The sensor data is transmitted back to the operations control centre on the ship.

The main payload is a 100 kg mine disposal charge which can be replaced by a manipulator. Wire cutters are used to release moored mines from the column of water above the sea bed. The mine disposal vehicles can be deployed to a depth of 300 m.