In the past, mine hunting, identification, and removal tasks were accomplished by explosive ordnance disposal divers or expensive, bulky robots. While divers are still used in identification and removal, new underwater vehicles are supporting these tasks by lightening the workload on divers, eliminating some risk for deep or repetetive dives, and serve as a quickly deployable and recoverable replacement for a heavier, more expensive submersible the U.S. Navy previously used.
To talk more on this is the executive officer of USS Gladiator (MCM 11), Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Gleason.
Mine hunting is the mission. Identification and neutralization is the method. Maintaining open, safe sea lanes is the goal. In the past, these tasks were accomplished by explosive ordnance disposal divers or the antiquated SLQ-48 Mine Neutralization Vehicle. While these units fit the bill and accomplished the mission, the Navy is always looking to complete tasks and missions more quickly, cheaply, and safely.
Using cuing from the ship’s sonar, the investigation variant of SeaFox can identify possible mines using its onboard sonar and camera, feeding live data via fiber-optics to a display in the Combat Information Center. That information is then compared to the ship’s variable depth sonar sweep of the area to determine if the UUV and ship’s sonar operator are looking at the same object. This entire process can be accomplished in 10 to 12 minutes, much more quickly than employing a dive team or using the legacy MNV.
If a mine is visually identified, a Combat Round can be prepared to destroy the threat. Using this one-shot solution to neutralize a mine threat is safer than deploying divers less time consuming that re-arming a MNV for neutralization.
As a MCM executive officer, having SeaFox aboard adds a more robust hunting capability to our innate sweeping capability. Overall, this is a very capable system that my crew and I are proud to have aboard and train with.
Seafox: Multi-purpose, Multi-use, Force Multiplier.
– Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Gleason, Executive Officer, MCM Crew Reaper.