From the Bushmaster to Mine-Hunter Coastal: The Thales sovereign solution enhancing equipment situational awareness for the Royal Australian Navy
The Huon-class Mine Hunter Coastal Fleet has been a stalwart in Australia’s marine defence strategy for over 20 years. They are a ‘workhorse’ of a platform; a hardy ship with outstanding shock resistance and an inherently low magnetic signature.
As the fleet continues to provide critical mine countermeasure operations, both locally and abroad, it is imperative that the health of the ship’s equipment and environment are monitored and maintained.
Steve Laybutt, Project Engineering Manager, at Thales Australia has worked in the mine countermeasures space for 16 years and knew there was a way to enhance the current method of monitoring utilised by the Royal Australian Navy.
‘The MHC’s have been around for decades, and in order to keep them at their best operationally, we knew we could offer a solution that would utilise the ship’s own operational data to improve equipment status situational awareness.’
This solution is called the Health and Usage Management Systems, or HUMS, which is at its core, a Big Data management tool. It gathers and then analyses the ships internal control and monitoring data to get a wholistic view of operational performance.
It provides insights that allow for the team, both onboard and onshore, to not only monitor the current environment, but also retrospectively review performance; both elements of which are critical enablers to enhance the ship’s availability, safety and reliability.
While Steve knew what solution was needed, there was a slight challenge in that there were no Thales designed solutions in the maritime environment that would fit the bill.
So, Steve thought ‘out of the box’ or, to put it more accurately, ‘out of the ship,’ and approached the team who developed and implemented the HUMS on the Thales Australia sovereign designed and built, Bushmaster.
‘We wanted to reuse existing technology that the team had developed, and see whether we could. apply it to a different platform.’
Indeed, they could. Michael Fazio, one of Thales Australia’s Software Architects, worked with the team who designed the Bushmaster HUMS and knew it would start as a good reference point.
“When Steve approached me, I was pretty keen to help out. Initially we thought this would be a fairly simple job of hooking into onboard systems through existing interfaces to monitor their performance, however, that was not the case.”
Not ones to give up, Michael and his team undertook a range of complex activities in order to get the right capability for the customer. They wrote specialised software, monitored 7 months’ worth of the ships data and reverse engineered the information which resulted in a fully customised solution for the MHC, which was born from the Bushmaster.
The HUMS has been trialled for the last 12 months on the MHCs and is consistently providing valuable outcomes. It has been a key enabler in supporting condition-based assessments, rather than relying purely on planned maintenance activities, there has been a reduction in Urgent Defects, or URDEFS, and greatly improved confidence in root causes of equipment issues.
Like all innovators, it’s imperative to keep evolving technology in order to meet, and exceed, customer requirements. The team have been working diligently to refine the capability to make it a ‘modular solution,’ enabling it to be fitted to a range of platforms with minimal customisation.