Mine Counter Measure Vehicles: iXblue to Ensure Safe Navigation for Belgian, Dutch, and Polish Navies

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Mine Counter Measure Vehicles are increasingly using UUVs and USVs carried by a mothership to detect mines. Indeed, they can survey an area and approach potential threats without endangering the crew and main vessel.


Belgian & Dutch Mine Countermeasure Vessels Equipped with iXblue’s Sonar and Navigation Technologies

The Belgian and Royal Netherlands Navies, recognized worldwide for their mine warfare expertise, are to be the first to deploy an unmanned systems-based Stand-off MCM capability to detect, identify, classify and neutralize sea mines. This innovative solution for robotic mine warfare will be developed by Belgium Naval & Robotics, a joint consortium formed by ECA Group and Naval Group. And iXblue naval technologies have just been tapped for what has been described as the largest European contract in naval robotics for the past 50 years.

This cutting-edge solution will include 12 new generation minehunters developed by Naval Group and equipped with a Toolbox from ECA Group. This toolbox will consist of a variety of aerial, surface and underwater drones that will be deployed to perform autonomous mine clearance missions at sea. By combining the latest generation of warships and a system of drones to counter mine risks at sea, this new innovative concept will keep humans out of danger, while ultimately increase the efficiency of MCM operations.

It is to assist ECA Group Toolbox drones in their missions and ensure their navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance, as well as subsea tracking and communication, that iXblue technologies have first been chosen.

SeapiX-FLS 5 Forward Looking Sonars, developed by the teams in La Ciotat, will thus be mounted on ECA Group USVs to perform obstacle avoidance, as well as real-time mapping, ensuring safety of navigation for the USVs.

The Acoustic division high-performance Gaps M7 USBL positioning and communication system and its respective transponders and beacons will also be mounted on the USVs and on the MCM ship of Naval Group to allow tracking of the AUVs and towed sonars. They will also ensure underwater communication between the AUVs and the USVs or the ships.

The Phins Compact Series of Inertial Navigation Systems developed by the teams in Saint-Germain-en-Laye will be providing highly accurate and robust navigation to ECA Group USVs, subsea drones and towed sonars.

“We are very pleased to partner with iXblue, a leading expert in the field of navigation, subsea positioning and imagery.” said Jean-Louis Sambarino, Program Director at ECA Group. “Our respective domains of expertise are complementary and our teams have already been working efficiently in the past. It is an important partnership for us and I am confident in the realization of our next steps within the Belgian-Dutch MCM program.”

Not only has iXblue naval navigation technology been chosen for ECA Group’s toolbox, it will also be providing critical navigation capabilities to Naval Group new fleet of Mine Counter Measure (MCM) vessels, ensuring safer operations and bringing real superiority to the Belgium and Dutch Navies. On top of Inertial Navigation Systems, SeapiX-FLS 7 Forward Looking Sonars will be equipping each of the 12 new vessels, providing extremely accurate real-time mine and obstacle detection, as well as analysis of the seabed and detected objects, ensuring the protection of the MCM vessels and their crews.

“For our navigation and sonar technologies to be chosen to be onboard such a cutting-edge robotic mine warfare program is a major endorsement. It is furthermore worth noting that iXblue is now providing the entire navigation solutions for this innovative MCM program, from the surface vessels, to the USVs, AUVs and towed sonars,” States Jean-Baptiste Fruchart, Regional Sales Manager. “By providing resilient navigation and positioning, as well as extremely accurate real-time mine and obstacle detection and analysis of the seabed and detected objects, we are now offering a comprehensive and fully integrated navigation solution for naval forces that will help protect the MCM vessels and their crews. This will in turn ensure safer operations and bring real superiority to the Belgium and Dutch Navies. With many more MCM programs planned in the coming years, this bodes well for our naval technologies that could become the standard solutions for such programs.”

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CortiX OAS Onboard Belgian & Dutch MCM

CortiX Obstacle Avoidance System (OAS) (made by Robopec, iXblue’s Robotics division) has been selected in 2021 by ECA Group to provide complete scene analysis for collision avoidance to their unmanned surface vehicles (USV). CortiX OAS is an AI based software that serves the critical role of merging visual and navigation data acquired by the USV’s various sensors, and of elaborating a safe and feasible route through the operation area.

“CortiX OAS will integrate perfectly with already selected iXblue systems, within the MCM program. We are proud of Belgium Naval & Robotics’ trust. This program is a major reference for Robopec solutions and a testimony of our know-how” states Eric Franchi, Sales Director, at Robopec.

iXblue Robotics division’s software met the extensive and high standard requirements of its client. “A sea proven and mature solution, CortiX OAS also innovates by addressing further collision avoidance regulations (COLREGs) than required. This innovation makes it not only great at percepting and avoiding obstacles, but also at inserting within naval traffic, as well as abiding to maritime regulations” adds Eric Franchi. ECA Group USVs will benefit from CortiX’ innovations and adaptability.

Polish Navy’s Kormoran II to Benefit from High Performance Navigation Thanks to iXblue’s INS

iXblue Inertial Navigation Systems have been selected to provide critical navigation capabilities to the Polish Navy’s new-build Kormoran II class mine countermeasure vessels (MCMV). iXblue partner, THESTA, will be responsible for integrating and delivering the INS to PGZ Stocznia Wojenna, a member of the PGZ Group, the leading contractor of naval navigation, communications and combat systems in Poland.

Developped as part of the Polish naval modernization program, the new class of modern mine countermeasure vessels will improve maritime safety and security in Polish waters. The vessels will be used to combat naval mine threats in the Polish exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and will also be deployed by the tactical task forces in the Baltic Sea and North Sea regions.

“The Kormoran II Class vessels are an innovative mine hunting program that will embark advanced technologies and we are very proud for our Inertial Navigation Systems to have been chosen for such major program.” States Jens Higgen, Sales Director, at iXblue. “Equipped with our inertial navigation systems, the Polish Navy new vessels will benefit from reliable, robust, and highly accurate navigation information, regardless of the environment, including within GNSS denied areas, ensuring undisrupted mine countermeasure operations.”

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