“From a Saab perspective the Unmanned Warrior exercise was a huge success. AUV62-AT and the Sea Wasp achieved 100% operational availability and were operated in realistic and very challenging operational environments. Worth mentioning, without AUV-62 AT the ASW phase of the exercise would probably have been seriously curtailed. If we look at Sea Wasp, it introduced a ground breaking new capability to the Royal Navy’s operators and impressed all those who saw it”, says Chris Lade, Defence Sales manager at Saab Seaeye UK.
Exercise tasked by The First Sea Lord
What´s the background to the exercise? In 2014 the head of the Royal Navy, The First Sea Lord, tasked the Royal Navy (RN) to demonstrate, trial and experiment with the tactical employment of unmanned and autonomous systems in order to mature credible capability choices for the mainstream utility of Maritime Autonomous Systems. From this tasking came Exercise Unmanned Warrior (UW), the first maritime exercise of its type that would focus on the technically innovative autonomous systems of the future and the capability they can bring to the operator. The exercise was overlaid on to Exercise Joint Warrior 162, a well-established bi-annual UK Live Exercise (LIVEX) with a proven history of delivering credible operational training to multinational joint, maritime, air and land forces within a contemporary operating environment”
“The exercise had five primary themes – C2, ISTAR, MCM, ASW and GEOINT and we decided that we would participate in two of these themes - ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) and MCM (Mine Countermeasures)”, says Chris Lade.
Different phases at different places
The ASW phase of the exercise took place between the West Coast of Scotland and the Hebrides in a sea area known as the Minches whilst the MCM phase was based at the QinetiQ British Underwater Test Evaluation Centre (BUTEC) Facilities at Raasay and Kyle of Lochalsh.
“Both areas of operation are very remote with poor lines of communications, so we said from the start it was going to be a challenging two weeks. It was made extra difficult for the ASW team because their base in Stornoway was also host to a national choral society festival and accommodation was almost all booked up! So it was that in October 2016 two small teams from Saab Underwater Systems deployed to the West Coast of Scotland to participate in the exercise”, Chris Lade explains.
Two weeks of action in the water
The first team from Sweden arrived in Stornoway October 6 with a complete AUV62-AT system. They began setting up the system on board the ship they were going to operate from - a torpedo recovery vessel. The system was going to be used for tracking by autonomous sensor systems from Boeing and Hydronaut, and Sonarbuoys from Ultra. AUV62-AT was operational for the entire exercise period conducting its final mission on October 19. The second team was smaller and consisted of two personnel. One from Sweden and one from UK, and they arrived at the BUTEC range on October 9. During the first week of exercise the IED hunter Sea Wasp, was operated out of the BUTEC Range in the Kyles of Lochalsh. The time there was split into two. The first was a variety of operations in the harbour, where they countered IED targets on the jetty above/on the waterline and conducted hull searches of larger vessels and tugs within the harbour. A seabed search was also completed within the harbour and an exercise target was located and recovered – mission accomplished.
The second series of operations were focussed on delivering a demonstration for two VIP days, a media day and a day of filming by a BBC film crew. For the purpose of these events the team from Saab put together a demonstration of Sea Wasp within the BUTEC harbour basin.
Chris Lade sums up the weeks in Scotland:
“The feedback on all the activities has been extremely positive. Most significant was the response from the VIPs, particularly from the Royal Navy and US Navy personnel. For the second week the Sea Wasp team moved 50 miles up north to Gairloch where the Royal Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit 3 (FDU 3) were operating and worked for four days in that area. During those four days the Navy divers operated Sea Wasp in a range of different missions – and with excellent results we cannot be anything but happy with how it has all turned out.”
Love at first sight when curious minds met during unmanned warrior.