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How PathMaster gives navies confidence to explore their uncrewed mine-countermeasure-ambitions – whether great or small

Sea mines are among the oldest and most dangerous threats for navies, deployed by both low end and high-end adversaries. 

Today, navies are investing in a breadth of capabilities to meet their own specific mine counter measure and interoperability requirements. These investments and upgrades include traditional MCMV, state of the art new platforms capable of deploying conventional sonars and full standoff uncrewed systems, deployed from both shore bases and sea assets. It is this new multi system, multi asset, multi navy capability, that will enable and support a hybrid approach to mine counter measures.

Strategically, hybrid MCM can be an excellent approach for many navies; it enables the value of crewed, uncrewed and collaboration, to be tailored against specific operational needs – without creating a binary choice between conventional and uncrewed. For navies that may not want to transition to full-scale uncrewed MCM, it provides the certainty that a conventional vessel’s war-fighting capabilities are maintained, whilst affording the option for low-level augmentation and experimentation of uncrewed systems.

Hybrid MCM is conceptually simple, but its implementation will be unique to each navy and their requirements. It may range from the implementation of Artificial Intelligence on a MCMV to a fully autonomous system of systems, controlled from a minehunter, vessel of opportunity, or shore base. Navies need the confidence that they can match a fast-evolving threat picture with a set of capability options; whether that is traditional, hybrid or standoff.

Thales has a proud and distinguished heritage delivering MCM systems around the world – navies are now drawing on Thales proven experience in both uncrewed and conventional MCM, exploiting Thales deep expertise in designing and delivering MCM capability. Thales will employ this expertise through Pathmaster to design, deliver and qualify a range of MCM systems, tailored to meet the individual requirements and concept of operations of navies. As a system of systems integrator Thales can select and integrate best of breed technologies to meet navies’ specific needs.

The critical factor in any hybrid solution is bringing conventional and uncrewed systems together. It is not enough to gather the right subsystems: in challenging seas, on a war footing, any hybrid system has to perform – delivering the critical information to the right decision maker at the right time. Success goes much deeper than just competent retrofitting or designing space to carry additional uncrewed tools on a new MCMV.

Hybrid MCM has some very practical implications: the Combat and Mission Management System integration, large or small must be clearly defined, protected and integrated. In addition, system integrators must be able to fuse, secure and present the data from both conventional and uncrewed sensors, turning it into actionable information to increase confidence in the hybrid system in challenging settings. In addition, the business of a prime contractor for a new MCMV may well be shipbuilding, not sonar. The level of challenge involved in getting hybrid right should not be underestimated.

Thales has a unified and flexible approach to all this: PathMaster.
Its qualified and certified system of building blocks utilise an open architecture management system – enabling conventional and uncrewed options to be seamlessly mapped onto navies’ individual capabilities and preferred equipment – whether their hybrid ambition is narrow or wide. But PathMaster is here to support the journey: it’s designed to foster dialogue and harness the whole of Thales’s MCM expertise on a navy’s behalf, and ensure it has full confidence – however rapidly it wants to develop its hybrid capability.

‘While a step to latest-generation MCM may not seem daunting – like switching from a conventional bicycle to an electric bicycle – Thales’s aim through Pathmaster is to ensure that navies can put in place an appropriate capability without it feeling like having to jump straight on a unicycle. We want to be the partner who’s done the hard work already, offers sound advice, and creates the headroom for navies to test and learn – however big or small their MCM needs are. That’s what PathMaster is all about: dialogue, trust, and flexibility.’

- Matt Hunt, Mine warfare product line director, Underwater systems, Thales.

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