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Forcys, a leading global maritime defence company, and SH Defence, part of SH Group, announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore the integration of Forcys’ advanced solutions into SH Defence’s Cube™ Modular Mission Capability system. The signing took place during the Combined Naval Event (CNE) in Farnborough (UK), with Ioseba Tena, Managing Director of Forcys, and Jimmy Gehring Sales Director of SH Defence, in attendance.

Forcys integrates and brings to the defence market world-changing solutions from leading technology partners Chelsea Technologies, EIVA, Sonardyne, Voyis, and Wavefront Systems. These companies are renowned for their innovative offering in underwater and maritime operations, making them ideal partners for SH Defence’s Cube™ system.

The Cube™ Modular Mission Capability system is the future in Maritime mission modularity. Capable of turning (almost) any platform into a future-proof multi-mission capability using interchangeable modules for all four dimensions of modern warfare.

This agreement follows the successful recent delivery of a Containerised ROTV (Remotely Operated Towed Vehicle) solution to a NATO Navy. In this project, Forcys’ sister company EIVA A/S delivered a ScanFish L ROTV, which was seamlessly integrated into an SH Defence Cube™, demonstrating the potential of this collaborative integration.

“We are excited about the opportunities this MOU brings,” said Ioseba Tena, Managing Director of Forcys. “Integrating our advanced solutions with the Cube™ system will provide operational flexibility and capability to naval forces worldwide. This collaboration underscores our commitment to enhancing maritime defence through innovation and strategic partnerships.”

Jimmy Gehring, Sales Director of SH Defence, echoed this sentiment, stating, “we are proud of the future cooperation with Forcys and look forward to promote our joint efforts to the defence industry.”

The MOU marks a significant step towards a deeper collaboration between Forcys and SH Defence. Both companies are committed to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in naval operations, leveraging their combined expertise to deliver state-of-the-art solutions to defence markets worldwide.

Explosive ordnance, such as mines, pose a significant threat to naval operations, offshore energy projects, and other maritime activities. Traditional methods of disposing of these hazards often put personnel and equipment at risk as they require divers or remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to approach the ordnance closely and manually initiate the detonation process.

The Initiation Transponder 6 (IT 6) from our technology partner Sonardyne, when integrated with mine neutralisation devices mounted on a VideoRay Mission Specialist Defender underwater robot, provides a remote, autonomous, safe and effective solution for mine clearance operations. This technical collaboration allows for acoustic initiation and detonation from a remote location, eliminating the need for and risks associated with physical proximity to the ordnance.

The integration of the Defender and mine neutralisation devices with the IT 6 represents a significant advancement in the field of explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).

How it works:

Benefits:

Demonstration

In 2022, the IT 6 and the Defender were demonstrated together for the first time to the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and the UAE Navy at a quarry in Wales.

The demonstration included successful detonations of a mine neutralisation device, delivered by the Defender and initiated by the IT 6, from a range of approximately 1 kilometre.

As armed forces around the world move towards more autonomous operations on land, in the air and under the sea, there will be increased demand for the utilisation of existing and the development of new technology.

The benefits in terms of safety, efficiency, adaptability and cost are obvious, not just in mine countermeasures; and the collaboration between market leaders, such as Forcys, Sonardyne and VideoRay, will be at the forefront of driving advances in the technology. Contact us to see how we can help you be there too.

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Did you know that another of our technology partners, Voyis, manufacture the market’s technically leading ROV piloting camera? The Discovery camera from Voyis enhances your identification by delivering crisp 4K images of your targets in real-time. The ideal complement to the IT 6 and Defender. Find out more in a blog coming soon…

When UK-based technology SME SubSea Craft needed a reliable navigation system for a ground-breaking surface to subsea maritime delivery platform there was only one possible solution…

SubSea Craft deliver next-generation capability solutions to support maritime manoeuvres. With extensive defence and commercial experience across a range of sectors, they bring together best-in-class partners from the maritime, technology, and defence sectors to deliver a technical edge to their clients.

VICTA is the first in a series of multi-domain platforms which will enable users to conduct a range of discrete military operations. It is capable of a high-speed surface transit before rapidly switching to a subsurface mode for covert delivery of divers and/or equipment.

The platform is deployable as an individual asset or as a force multiplier, capable of enhancing maritime operations through networked, crewed, or autonomous modes.

When developing VICTA, their next-generation maritime delivery platform in 2019 they identified the need for a navigation system and a forward-looking sonar to assist navigation in congested and poorly charted areas of operations, and as an additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) effect to support specific mission requirements. Both technologies had to be able to withstand the shock and vibration of high-speed surface transit and the pressure associated with transition from surface to subsea modes.

The components also needed to be compact enough to be fitted and operate within a limited space while delivering reliable, mission-critical, navigation information to the pilot in an easy to digest format so operators can maintain focus on mission critical activity.

With decades of experience in both maritime technology and complex integration behind them, this was a challenge that Covelya Group companies Forcys, Sonardyne and Wavefront combined forces to meet.

The solution

Combining tightly coupled solutions from Forcys technology partners to create a fully integrated navigation and forward-looking sonar system delivers best in class capability to the VICTA platform.

SPRINT-Nav 300 from our technology partner Sonardyne met VICTA’s stringent navigational accuracy requirements. It combines Sonardyne’s proven SPRINT INS (Inertial Navigation System), Syrinx DVL (Doppler Velocity Log) and a high accuracy intelligent pressure sensor in a single housing, making it one of the smallest combined inertial navigation instruments on the market.

Because it is designed for both surface and subsea navigation, it can withstand the associated pressure changes as VICTA switches modes. It also saves vital mission time as it requires no gyro calibration manoeuvres on start-up. Its compact size means that it minimises the impact on the limited space available.

VICTA is also fitted with a Vigilant FLS 1500 – a long-range, Forward-Looking Sonar from our technology partner Wavefront Systems. Vigilant is a real-time navigation and obstacle avoidance sonar, able to detect objects in the water column at up to 1.5 km away while generating a high resolution, easy to interpret 3D terrain map of the seabed and water column ahead – out to 600 m.

Vigilant FLS can be integrated into autonomous platforms to provide essential information to command-and-control systems to aid safe surface and subsurface navigation. The inclusion of Vigilant FLS provides safety and mission success benefits when used on both manned and autonomous operations.

David Henson Chief Technical Officer for SubSea Craft said: “At SSC our ethos is to maximise the use of cutting-edge technology to drive innovation and deliver battle winning capability.  We have been very impressed with how successfully Forcys and its technology partners have been able to work together and seamlessly integrate with our existing systems to deliver an excellent solution.”

The results

Despite the complexities of working on a highly complex unfamiliar platform, we were able to call on many years of experience and knowledge to ensure successful integration of SPRINT-Nav and Vigilant FLS onboard VICTA.

With many other complex and safety-to-life critical systems onboard, it was vital that all the technology was integrated without interference and leaving the complex layers of systems able to communicate with each other. Again, success here lay in our experience and ability to adjust our products to exquisite use cases, which are becoming more prevalent in the defence sector.

Justin Hains, Forcys Business Development Manager, commented; “SubSea Craft’s progressive application of technology presents a world of opportunities for future operations, and we are delighted to work with them. The breadth of experience within our technology partners in Covelya Group means that we are well placed to provide the technology required for VICTA to achieve its operational potential.”

Sea trials for VICTA are continuing successfully as SubSea Craft develop the platform to meet the demands of increasingly autonomous defence operations.

If you have similar navigational requirements, please get in touch.

In testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee in May 2023, Assistant Secretary of State Jessica Lewis stated that “[AUKUS] Pillar II may have arrived just in time,” referring to a generally accepted assessment that China is ahead of the United States and its allies in 19 of 23 technologies relevant to AUKUS Pillar II. While advancing the state of the art in all of Pillar II technologies is an important goal in addressing this gap, we can immediately shift the balance in those areas contributing to subsurface and seabed warfare (SSW) through existing and proven capabilities. Collectively, the AUKUS participants can address this technological imbalance and do so at pace by leveraging commercially available vehicles, sensors, and payloads to get relevant capability into SSW warfighters’ hands.

To achieve this very near-term solution, the United States needs a comprehensive approach to navigate opportunities, overcome challenges, and reshape existing legislative frameworks to implement Pillar II.

Quantity Has a Quality All Its Own

Rightfully, the main buzz around AUKUS centers on Pillar I and the pathway to an indigenous Australian nuclear submarine. The breadth and scope of that endeavor—rolling up 75 years of the nuclear submarine ecosystem from two sovereign nations to create a brand new one in a third independent nation—is epic and without true precedent. In the case of nuclear-powered submarines, quality establishes its own quantity.

Pillar II headlines and discussions have focused on the advancement of relevant undersea technologies to push the state of the art in SSW through collaboration and mutual development of new capabilities. Implementing undeveloped, or newly developed technology and fielding at scale in useful numbers for warfighters still takes years in the US, acquisition reforms and alternative contracting methods notwithstanding. Moving up the technology readiness level (TRL) ladder is risky, time phased, and expensive.

However, in the SSW fight, small, uncrewed, autonomous vehicles, perhaps even those that are expendable or attritable, carrying a variety of sensors, and seafloor networks serving a variety of functions are available right now. Sensor systems with limited range or function deployed in significant numbers—quantity—offer meaningful options for a theater commander—a desirable quality, to be sure.

The near-term solution is to rapidly and widely implement existing commercially available technologies regardless of AUKUS nation of origin. Closing the perceived technology gap, referenced above, that was ceded over years will take years to win back. The Replicator initiative tacitly acknowledges the challenge of regaining the technology edge through its approach to rapidly deploy legions of autonomous platforms within just a couple years.

Raising the Pillar, Lowering the Flag

Commercially available technology, in use by companies in conducting energy, communications, and ocean survey operations, and by ocean science and research institutes, is highly capable and available now to support SSW mission sets. Integrating sensors and payloads into existing vehicles for military rather than commercial operations is a low risk and quick way to address Pillar II goals. Facilitating this across national AUKUS boundaries, at least in the US, requires action from Congress, the Department of State (DoS), and the Department of Defense (DoD).

Three areas present hurdles:  legislative action; modification of export controls through International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR); and management of Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI).

Legislative Action

To date, only two bills referencing AUKUS have become law and both are National Defense Authorization Acts. Several bills are in early stages in either house of congress addressing various legislative changes or authorization. No DoS authorization act has been passed in recent years and none appropriating money for AUKUS activities. Without legislation or authorization, DoS cannot make changes to ITAR rules opening the door for accelerated movement of technical information and material within the AUKUS group. Stalled initiatives, such as the Senate’s Truncating Onerous Regulations for Partners and Enhancing Deterrence Operations (TORPEDO) Act of 2023 directly address the issues and should be enacted into law directly.

Adapting Export Controls

Long-standing exemptions for Canada covering technical data transfer and enumerated items on the US Munitions List (USML) allow the free flow of Pillar II technologies. DoS can adopt this same approach with our other most trusted partners. The same language and principles can be rapidly incorporated into our ITAR. “Pre-licensing” by carving out specified exemptions in the USML will quickly allow for seamless collaboration between government, research, and commercial entities under the AUKUS umbrella. Proposed legislation in both the House and the Senate leans into DoS to make these changes.

“Controlled AUKUS” Information Category

Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) evolved from several threads of unclassified but sensitive, often export controlled, technical and other information. Both the DoD and DoS acknowledge this is a significant hurdle. Overclassification was characterized in 2023 by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as “unbelievably ridiculous” and this extends to overly controlling CUI. Further, improper markings and categorization throw sand in the gears. CUI is codified in DoD instruction but application is inconsistent and confusing and stymies what should otherwise be a smooth authorization process. Others have already suggested creating a special category to pre-clear the transfer of information within AUKUS channels. Creation of such a handling caveat may be effective in both the UK and Australia as each have their own processes for determining what is and what is not sensitive and what can be readily shared. A trilateral handling caveat could cut across the unique systems in place without having to reconcile the rules of each country.

Conclusion

Pillar II is moving forward within the current AUKUS ecosystem but more is needed than can be accomplished without changing that system. The need to address SSW gaps is pressing in the near term and the call for purposeful, prompt action by Congress, State, and Defense is clear.

This article was written by Captain Christian Haugen, USN (Ret.). Chris served as a US Navy submarine officer for 25 years retiring in 2010. From that time he has served as a leader and business development lead at well known companies within the defense industry.

It is an exciting time for defence industry and Australia’s undersea warfare capability. The thought of autonomous vessels surveying, communicating, detecting, and performing tasks, either on their own or with naval vessels (warships and submarines) brings a whole new level of capability for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) that only years ago seemed fictional.

With the surge of undersea capabilities currently being constructed in the Asia Pacific region, AUKUS comes at a critical time for the Royal Australian Navy and its allies.

The challenge for Australia, with its vast maritime approaches is how it dominates the underwater domain through control and denial. We are excited with the range of acoustic technology and tools that through Pillar 2, will support Australia’s ability to win the underwater battle.

AUKUS

Announced in September 2021, AUKUS is a defence and security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Through both its Pillars, AUKUS provides each of its partners with the ability to share, collaborate and work together providing acceleration for various technology areas including nuclear powered submarines and other capability enhancements.

Not Just Nuclear-Powered Submarines

The first focus for AUKUS was on the nuclear submarine program under Pillar 1, cancelling all previous work on SEA1000 and cooperating with the UK and US to acquire nuclear powered submarines over conventional ones. Since the announcement, Pillar 2 has been introduced and provided other specified areas of collaboration for each of the AUKUS nations. It focuses on developing a range of capabilities over several key areas; this will not only provide the ability between AUKUS nations to accelerate these advanced capabilities, but also continue to pave the way for closer military ties and more importantly, interoperability between them. There may be opportunity for other nations to cooperate and recent announcements point to New Zealand taking an active interest.

Undersea Warfare

From Australia’s perspective, the focus areas afforded through AUKUS are critical for the future security in the Indo-Pacific region. The region has never seen a buildup of maritime forces like it is currently witnessing; these forces, both surface and subsurface, can venture anywhere that the regions oceans allow them to. It is imperative that Australia, bordered by three oceans, views its vast underwater approaches as a priority to monitor, deter and defend against undersea adversary capabilities.

The establishment of maritime undersea ranges, the ability to communicate with them via autonomous underwater vessels (AUVs), while being able to track them acoustically will be part of the undersea warfare solution for Australia.

Time Scales – the Now and the Later

Pillar 1 is set in motion, work between nations has commenced with a pathway to acquire both current US and hybrid UK versions of nuclear-powered submarines for Australia. But the acquisition will take time; the construction of nuclear-powered submarines, buildup of personnel, the training of their crews and support networks and upgrading of facilities and infrastructure will not be fully established for some time. Pillar 2 by comparison, will start immediately with work already commencing in Australia through the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator (ASCA). ASCA will connect and streamline the defence innovation system to drive capability development and acquisition pathways at speed, and more effectively harness and coordinate the innovation ecosystem. In fact, all three nations are working towards each of the Pillar 2 capabilities through development and sharing.

These technology areas, particularly underwater, will transform the AUKUS members’ military interoperability and technology over the 2020s and through the 2030s, with the nuclear-powered submarines supplementing further deterrent capabilities when delivered.

A Changing World – Asymmetrical Capabilities

AUKUS Pillar 2 is about delivering advanced capabilities, including through technologies that can autonomously extend both the reach and range of the military. The Ukraine conflict has seen the rise of autonomous vehicles that have provided a transitional view of modern warfare, not only from the air domain, but also from land and maritime domains.

These capabilities have been highlighted in Australia’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR) as asymmetric. Capabilities like these will play an increasingly important role in the defence of Australia and its military. These asymmetrical capabilities originate not just from defence industry but from a range of industries, such as the offshore oil and gas and communications sector, that have been utilising technologies such as AUVs for decades.

The technology will be modified to carry a military payload to become force multipliers, working in concert with other AUVs, submarines or warships that will provide the RAN and Australia with valuable deterrent and surveillance technologies.

Cooperation Between Nations and Industry

While the US, UK and Australia have always been close allies, the AUKUS partnership is a technology accelerator between the governments of the three nations with a timescale and accompanying gateway of technology transfers, not seen before.

This gateway of technology transfer is not just from the military, but as previously mentioned, technology firms with high Technical Readiness Level (TRL) capabilities that have been working in industries such as oil and gas can benchmark their decades of working with autonomous vessels for defence.

With the backing of 50 years of experience in energy, ocean science and defence, Forcys Australia are introducing game changing technology through its expertise in the underwater domain with highly sophisticated, TRL9, – agnostic payloads for platforms. Through our technology partners, Forcys specialise in autonomous vessel payloads, acoustic underwater communications, sonars and camera capabilities, providing the benchmark for future AUVs and remotely operated asymmetrical capabilities.

In addition to the above, Forcys expertise in intruder detection sonars, command and control software and remotely operated towed vehicles, environmental sensors and laser scanners already provides world leading capabilities deployed with many navies around the globe.

Industry proven technology can help to rapidly accelerate Pillar 2 delivery

Forcys Australia are already supplying sensors to the RAN, Defence Science Technology Group (DSTG) and key industry stakeholders, we’re especially excited about the opportunities for Forcys with AUKUS Pillar 2 undersea warfare. Our capabilities are not just limited to asymmetric warfare; they can be utilised for underwater ranges, long range acoustic communications, MCM, along with tracking and protection of critical national infrastructure.

If you’d like to hear more about our vision for the AUKUS partnership, contact us for more information.

Sean Leydon retired from the Royal Australian Navy in 2020. Trained as an engineer, Sean completed an MBA as well as Masters degrees in both Strategy and Management and Maritime Studies.

Forcys brings together leading technologies, offering a comprehensive naval and subsea capability to the world defence market

Forcys is excited to announce further expansion across its global operations, adding to its team of experts dedicated to equipping navies with the most advanced underwater solutions, and establishing a US entity. We’re committed to working alongside you and your supply chain to elevate your lethality and situational awareness in the critical undersea domain.

Counting on a legacy built over five decades, Forcys’ technology offer is trusted by navies worldwide. We provide a unique range of remote, autonomous, and networked control capabilities that deliver integrated underwater intelligence for every mission.

In a significant move, Dan Zatezalo joins Forcys as General Manager for Forcys Inc. and Head of Global Sales. Dan was responsible for US DoD sales at sister company Sonardyne Inc. delivering continued growth. At Forcys he will look to instil the same customer led culture. “I’m excited to take on the new role. I cherish the responsibility that comes from supporting our customers at a time when new technology challenges the way we have been acting”.

Covering a range of maritime operations including asset protection, littoral strike, mine warfare, submarine rescue, and submarine and anti-submarine warfare, Forcys seeks to transform the underwater domain by enabling increasingly distributed and automated operations. This is made possible by integrating and bringing to market world-changing solutions from leading technology partners Chelsea Technologies, EIVA, Sonardyne, Voyis, and Wavefront Systems.

Ioseba Tena, Commercial Director, “Since we launched Forcys eighteen months ago, the underwater domain has continued to receive unprecedented levels of interest. It’s no longer a question of when autonomous systems will become a factor. It’s now a question of what we do to counter them. It’s time for original responses to novel threats. Time to create our own fleets of systems and counter measures. At Forcys we are ready to spearhead the delivery of situational awareness sensors and software to support this transition. It’s an exciting time for our team and we are looking forward to supporting our global customer base.”

Discovery is a revolutionary new underwater camera system from Forcys technology partner Voyis that is changing the way we understand the underwater domain. In an interview with Luke Richardson VP for Sales and Marketing at Voyis, we discuss the origins of the Discovery, the challenges faced in its development, and the new optical payloads that are helping to transform our understanding of the underwater world.

Discovery was designed to remove the compromise between piloting and inspection cameras. Traditional underwater robotic systems (ROVs) have separate camera systems for piloting and inspection. Piloting cameras are designed with low latency in mind, which compromises the video and data quality of the camera to ensure the pilot has rapid response time. Whereas, inspection cameras provide high quality optical video and imagery, but are not trusted to provide low latency piloting capabilities, limiting the payload capacity for ROVs, particularly smaller platforms. Discovery Vision Systems consolidate these two functions into a single camera system. This gives operators access to high-quality imaging, low latency video feed, and, in the case of the Stereo variant, real-time depth perception, all from a single camera.

Luke Richardson explains, “New optical payloads are providing us with unprecedented insights into the underwater domain. The Discovery’s camera system, for example, uses a mix of high-quality optics and focus, combined with image enhancements done at the edge to generate actionable subsea datasets in real-time. This allows operators to see and understand the underwater world in a new way. It hasn’t been easy. One of the biggest challenges was developing a camera system that could meet the requirements for an effective subsea navigation and inspection tool, while fitting on a small inspection-class ROVs. Discovery Vision Systems are powered with the latest developments in computing capability to minimize the electronic stack, while still performing advanced corrections essential to deliver a superior inspection camera. In addition to optimizing the electronics to get the most out of the camera internals, the system also utilizes a 130° x 130° domed lens with full 4K resolution and crisp focus to provide platforms with increased situational awareness through piloting operations. Integrating this incredible field of view within the Discovery size limitations required mastery from Voyis’ design team. The development of the Discovery tackled the challenges and as a result the quality and capability of the system met the need of our objective, helping humans see the depths like we see the surface.”

In defence applications cameras have a critical role to play in providing improved situational awareness by helping to identify IEDs and mines, supporting autonomous manipulation tasks and obstacle avoidance.

Advanced optical and processing technology readily accessible

Discovery Vision Systems from Voyis use the Data Distribution Service (DDS) architecture to provide users with access to all the data they need to make informed decisions and perform inspections. DDS is a standard protocol that allows different systems to communicate with each other and share data in a real-time and efficient manner.

“You’d like to know why we would want to use DDS? It means we can provide the user with a number of outputs:

Users can simply subscribe to any of these data streams and receive them in real time. This allows users to create 3D models, make decisions, and perform inspections quickly and efficiently.”

Discovery Vision Systems are compliant with the Unmanned Maritime Autonomy Architecture (UMAA) framework, which is used by the US Navy. This means that the system can be easily integrated with other systems that use the UMAA framework. This makes it easy for users to deploy the Discovery Vision System on their own platforms and start using it immediately.

Sample 3D reconstruction of the environment using the Discovery Vision System

It’s child’s play

“You can’t underestimate the amount of effort that has gone into making the Discovery camera as simple to use as possible. We considered typical survey operations, and wanted to ensure that operators could maintain their general piloting missions without changing tasks or adding additional steps, but also wanted to ensure that the mission would gain a large advantage with the actionable datasets generated in real-time. I am happy to say that we have managed to do that. Discovery is a technical marvel, improving user experience and delivering outputs that are immediately accessible to any user.”

The technical innovations required to make this vision system work are numerous:

Why invest on your camera system?

“The camera is the most important sensor on an ROV. It is what allows you to see underwater without deploying a person. So why would you compromise and only rely on a low-latency camera with limited optimization for subsea environments? If you build the ROV to provide “eyes” in subsea environment for humans ashore, why would you compromise on the camera?,” Luke asks. “In a sense, customers should consider the camera they need to perform their operation before the platform, it is the sensors that enable humans to interpret the subsea domain, the ROV is simply the vessel to transport them.”

If you would like to find out more about Discovery or Voyis other optical systems, please contact us.

Doctrinally, the concept of amphibious operations has followed a deliberate linear approach from planning to termination with the landing force only entering the area of operations once rehearsal and re-embarkation have been completed to suit the requirements of the planned mission. As an example, the Royal Navy plans to deploy two Littoral Strike Groups (LSG) on a permanent basis, to extend the UK’s presence, insight, and influence globally. The most likely operating areas are the Indo-Pacific and North Atlantic Oceans. The forces are far more likely to be operating in the eventual amphibious operating area before an operation is conducted. In our view, the familiar acronym PERMSAT (Planning, Embarkation, Rehearsal, Manoeuvre, Shaping, Action, Termination) will be compressed to chronologically and geographically to three broad activities: persistent presence and posture; concentration of amphibious force, action and termination. But they will overlap and compete for resources and space. So how could the LSG maintain its situational awareness (and a degree of presence) while it must depart a littoral zone to reorganise and rehearse?  

Advance force and pre-landing operations are predominantly covert in nature and sequenced as close or coordinated with the assault to minimise the resource and logistic burden and maintain the advantage of surprise.  

Operational choices 

Vessels operating on the surface are vulnerable and can disclose favoured channels or operating areas. Crewed Mine Countermeasures Vessels (MCMVs) require additional tailored defensive support if operating within enemy engagement range. Even uncrewed surface assets can be targeted by coastal defence missile and artillery systems which must be neutralised before assets are committed close to land. As swarm attacks by surface and air drones become more accurate and lethal, it is conceivable that surface assets will only be used once the landing force has committed to its area of operations and even then, at increased risk of destruction by enemy action.  

So how does a pre-deployed LSG prepare itself for an assault when it is already in or close to its operating area? If stores and vehicles need to be reorganised from efficient and safe storage to assault order, the amphibious force will need to leave the littoral zone at the very time that it is looking to increase situational awareness. Meanwhile any advance force, pre-landing or MCM activity must operate without the need for additional defensive capabilities and without advertising the amphibious operating area geometry. The use of surface assets for low-risk deception only is a soft option that negates the need for adequate organic protection capability within the LSG design. The deduction is simple, mitigate for a denied or contested surface environment by augmenting sub-surface capabilities: the underwater domain is more covert and, for the time being at least, more survivable. 

Technical options 

Uncrewed, autonomous systems could be left behind to continue intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and MCM “tasking, and potentially as the senor-decider-effector chain is established they could contribute to area denial, pending the return of the amphibious force. 

These assets could be mobile – either crawling or swimming before settling again to conserve power, to keep pace with the changing requirements of the littoral strike group and frustrate counter measures by the enemy. As the LSG achieves its objective and moves closer to sustain itself for as long as required, these assets could provide the seaward sensor/defensive screen or move with the task group to maintain a positioning network independent from GPS. 

The sense-decide-effect system of system of systems will rely on a robust secure underwater communication network. In our vision exploiting the technology carried by each of the previously mentioned self-propelled nodes and vehicles. 

Proven Capabilities 

Our technology partners have over 50 years’ experience in the offshore energy sectors. Integration and testing in the amphibious context is the next step. Integration of acoustic array technology could maintain the force’s level of situational awareness. This technology is well understood and used extensively in the energy sector. Pre-positioned and pre-surveyed transponders can already provide centimetre accurate positioning independent of GNSS input. Sensor agnostic seabed nodes are already available, integration with acoustic, seismic, magnetic sensors is low risk and achievable within a very short time frame. Acoustic and optical communications options can support data transfers at speeds up to 1Gb/s depending on range. 

Seabed nodes being deployed.

Forcys is ready to help you now. Early engagement is needed to help solve the challenges the future operating space presents. We can use indicative blocks of proven technology to show you how our technology can help.

If you’d like to hear more about our vision of amphibious warfare in the future or think we could deliver some of these capabilities in partnership, contact us for more information. 

Justin Hains MBE left the Royal Navy in 2020. Among other professional qualifications, he completed the Advanced Mine Warfare Course and the Amphibious Operations Planning Course during a career as a Mine Warfare Clearance Diving Officer and Principal Warfare Officer (Underwater). 

The ViperFish is an all-in-one compact remotely operated towed vehicle (ROTV) ideally suited for expeditionary mine countermeasures (MCM) and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) surveys. Martin Kristensen, VP of Hardware Development at our technology partner EIVA, explains all in this edition of The Watch.

“The ViperFish is a new surveying platform that we developed to address the growing demand for unexploded ordnance (UXO) surveying in the offshore wind industry,” said Kristensen. “It is a versatile and easy-to-use system that can be deployed from a vessel of opportunity. Expeditionary MCM survey requirements are very similar so navies can benefit from all our commercial experience to make their surveys far more efficient.”

Experience where it counts

“We wanted to incorporate all the lessons we learned from building and operating the ScanFish ROTV, the industry’s leading UXO survey platform, into the design of the ViperFish, creating a UXO surveying platform optimised to meet the demands of our customers. These include increasingly efficient surveys and where possible these needed to be automated. To support an increasing volume of surveys, new ROTVs needed to be compact, easy to launch and recover from a variety of vessels, including uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), and equipped with class-leading payloads and navigation sensors.

The system is built using the same building blocks as the ScanFish, enabling us to leverage all that experience. The first obvious difference between the ViperFish and the ScanFish is the shape. The ViperFish is cylindrical with actuated fins, while the ScanFish is shaped like an airfoil. The new system is as manoeuvrable, but the difference in shape offers a number of benefits:

It’s not just the platform. It’s the whole system. We conducted significant research to minimise the cable drag. By doing this, we can operate with smaller winches and deploy from a smaller surface area. We offer two shipment options: a self-contained cradle-box that can be shipped everywhere, or a container ready to integrate into a vessel.

It’s taken some time, but one of the most memorable things about the ViperFish is the first time we put it in the water,” said Kristensen. “On our first prototype test, we were out sailing 3 days and we had 100% uptime on the system. It was really a relief and a joy to see that all of our hard work had paid off.”

Screenshot showing the captured sonar data

All the payloads

The ViperFish is equipped with all the sensors typically required on an ROTV, including:

The integration of these sensors into the ViperFish ROTV makes it a versatile and efficient UXO surveying platform. The ViperFish can be used to conduct surveys in a variety of conditions, and it can detect a wide range of objects.

Low-logistics, simple to operate, quick to train

“The ViperFish is operated by a crew of two people. The survey plans are prepared beforehand using NaviSuite Kuda software from EIVA. When launching the system, one person is responsible for supervising the ViperFish, while the other person controls the crane. At a speed through water of 2 to 10 knots, once in the water the ViperFish automatic controls take over, quickly swimming to the appropriate height from the seafloor within less than a minute. When the system is deployed one person is responsible for monitoring the automated mission while operating the ViperFish’s sensors and collecting data. If the ViperFish detects a possible UXO, the crew can mark the location on a map. The crew can then return to the location at a later time to investigate further. The system follows the seabed at a fixed height and can cope with slopes of up to 45 degrees. Plus it can replan its mission if obstacles are detected and avoid them in a safe manner while still obtaining high-quality data. When the mission is completed, the ViperFish is recovered by the two-person crew. We are also in discussions with USV manufacturers to make the launch and recovery totally automated.”

“The system is relatively easy to operate, even for people who are not trained hydrographers. The whole training process can be completed in a couple of weeks, it is mostly focused on learning how to set up the system and how to operate the sensors. If the crew is already experienced with using autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) systems or the ScanFish, the training process will be a couple of days at most. Since the user interface of NaviSuite Kuda, EIVA’s survey software, is used widely in the commercial sector, there is already a large pool of contractors and trainers ready to support operations. In addition, sailors will be gaining valuable skills to support their transition to the commercial sector.”

Actionable data

“Ultimately, it’s about delivering our customers the best data, and you’ll be surprised how challenging it is to get these many payloads into the right form factor. But it has been worth it. We offer an incredible amount of area coverage rate of actual actionable data using class leading sensors.”

Please contact us to find out more.