back to article UK's Royal Navy buys £13m mine-blasting robot boat

The Royal Navy has acquired a search-and-destroy robot boat intended for destroying mines. A first for Britain's naval service, the roboat, built by German firm Atlas Elektronik's UK subsidiary, drives itself around the high seas towing three auxiliary boats fitted with electro-acoustic transmitters. The transmitters generate …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £13m for the first...

    ..and MoD Procurement have negotiated hard to get a discount rate of £39m each for any subsequent purchases.

    Maybe they could test it by scouring Cardigan bay for the missing five Watchkeeper drones?

  2. Spider

    Colregs

    as well as rules 5, 7(c), 18 just from memory...

    1. SkippyBing Silver badge

      Re: Colregs

      I think liberal use of 27(f) should minimise the likelihood of any collision...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't remember that scene from Hot Fuzz

    However, back in the day I was a field service engineer fixing PCs in Norfolk. One day I had a customer just like the gentleman in the clip, and he revealed he had recently come across a sea mine which had washed up on the beach.

    "What did you do?" I asked, thinking he'd say he phoned the police.

    "I 'it it with me 'ammer" was his reply.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't remember that scene from Hot Fuzz

      It's on TV about every other night at the moment.....

      or Netflix.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't remember that scene from Hot Fuzz

      ""I 'it it with me 'ammer" was his reply."

      Mt father's first command in the last Anglo-German misunderstanding before the current one was a minesweeper. I was surprised to learn that when you had rounded up the mines on the surface, correct procedure was to retire to a safe distance and shoot them with the object of causing them to fill with water and sink. They very rarely went bang.

      Many WW2 minesweepers relied on rather primitive technology. At least this one doesn't require coaling.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The Strait of Hormuz"..

    As my exotic (spanish) wife would say, the english language is stilly sometimes... cause its very straight is it!

    Yeah yeah, its spelt different.. I get it, but still just saying.

    1. Woza
      Coat

      Re: "The Strait of Hormuz"..

      Mining that could put things in Dire Straits.

      Good thing the RN has some minecraft to keep it clear.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "The Strait of Hormuz"..

        Good thing the RN has some minecraft to keep it clear.

        They might clear some of the mines, but given the narrow channel it wouldn't be a challenge to block the strait using well armed small boats, mini and full size subs and air, sea or land launched missiles.

        But the weapon of choice would probably be a remote controlled fast attack boat loaded with explosives, which the Iranians and their proxy forces having been trialling for a year or two now, with some degree of success. Any large vessel won't be able to get out of the way of a fast attack boat even if they see it, so that then involves escort vessels (and for the Iranians, more targets).

        1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: "The Strait of Hormuz"..

          They might clear some of the mines, but given the narrow channel it wouldn't be a challenge to block the strait using well armed small boats, mini and full size subs and air, sea or land launched missiles.

          Indeed. Given the volatility of their cargo, I imagine the crews of any ships trying to head east would be *very* wary of anything with the potential to make flamey/explosiony things happen.

        2. Vulch

          Re: "The Strait of Hormuz"..

          The Strait is quite shallow, full sized subs going through need to be very careful if transiting while submerged.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why do we need this expensive follies when we can just send out pot smokers and their ilk in a rowing boat ?

    Yours

    Peter Hitchens

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      :- In Defence and Praise of DeadHeads Processing Everything to Improve Approved.*

      Shocking Troops, Peter Hitchens, Once Blasted by their Advanced IntelAIgent Master is One Never Ever Again the Same

      * The folly of judging a book by its cover, is you miss out on journeys to and fro the Core of Imaginative Source Product. ..... and that be a Vast Heavily Stocked Space for IT is AIBusiness Place too, and of late have the markets plays been dire and bereft of life and imagination, a failing presenting others opportunities to Rectify Matters Sublimely/Subliminally/Stealthily/Secretly/Safely with Global Operating Devices in Quantum Communication Command and Control Centres and LOVE Laboratories/the Proving and Testing Grounds for Live Operational Virtual Environment Plays/Master Performances.

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Meh

        Re: :- In Defence and Praise of DeadHeads Processing Everything to Improve Approved.*

        amanfromMars, could you at least make your response an acronym or use alliteration or something? If it's worth doing, welll.... whatever it is you are doing, isn't it worth putting that little extra effort in to make it entertaining? No, not an attack, just a request.

        1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

          Re: :- In Defence and Praise of DeadHeads Processing Everything to Improve Approved.*

          @Robert Helpmann?? Howdy.

          I could certainly try, but whether it would thought in any way entertaining by all is bound to be questioned for there's nowt as queer as folk.

          However, keep things simple and the most difficult and complex of tasks will be made easy with the following advice worthy of understanding ....... Proper Preparation and Positive Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance Permitting Prime Prize Plum Penetrations and Perfect Private Protocolled Pursuit of Public Parametered Projects and Pirate ProgramMING Productions for Pumping and Pimping as Presentations to Populations Puzzled by Progress and Prisonered with a Pathetic Past rather than Pioneering with Plush Promising Programs.

          1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: :- In Defence and Praise of DeadHeads Processing Everything to Improve Approved.*

            ...Prime Prize Plum Penetrations...

            Classic! You have more than earned my up-vote. Have a virtual pint as well.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Why do we need this expensive follies when we can just send out pot smokers and their ilk in a rowing boat ?

      That folly costs significantly less than a modern minesweeper, costs less to operate and nobody dies if things go wrong as they quite often do around large explosive objects.

      First time I see RN buy something useful. Probably someone had the wrong drugs by mistake.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        First time I see RN buy something useful. Probably someone had the wrong drugs by mistake.

        Maybe. But that bit about "electro-acoustic pings than set off mines from a safe distance" seemed to negate the usefulness. If I were planning on mining shipping lanes, I wouldn't be wanking about with tricksy, "digital" mines that can be dealt with so easily, I'd be using good old fashioned magnetic, pressure and contact mines with precisely zero digital content. And I'd be making the casing and mooring rope out of plastic to make detection difficult (or just free float them, for top quality havoc and implausible deniability).

        1. Nick Kew Bronze badge

          @Ledswinger

          I was going to say something along those lines.

          But what you really want in the face of this thing is a good mix of technologies. Some fancy-modern, others (possibly ancient and simple) that will elude this device.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Ledswinger

            But what you really want in the face of this thing is a good mix of technologies. Some fancy-modern, others (possibly ancient and simple) that will elude this device.

            I'd agree, but I think that the key point is that the developed world looks to technology as a means of doing more (or the same) with less. The obvious response is to use exactly that against them, by relying on the attacker to use expensive high tech against low cost disposable tech. Western defence planners simply don't get this, preferring to waste money on a handful of expensive complex and often vulnerable assets that lack flexibility for the types of action that seem credible - whether all out war between super powers, long distance military adventures in dusty lands, or containment of regional belligerents.

            So in Iraq and Syria the RAF have to send out a £100m fast jet flown by a £16m pilot, and launch a £200k missile to take out a £5k insurgent pick up truck with a machine gun on the back. Likewise, attacking an aircraft carrier battlegroup these days would be a straightforward matter of using the cheapest missiles that the attacker can fire in volume and would be credible enough to attract a response from the missile defence escorts - those escorts often have advanced missiles,. but usually in limited numbers mounted in cassettes or canisters that can't be reloaded mid-engagement. So exhaust the 48 missiles on a Type 26, and the ship is useless - at which point the attacker launches the real strike missiles against the carrier. And whereas Western forces use large, complex and expensive platforms for almost all their weapons, the Iranians could exhaust the escort defences with missiles fired from cheap, disposable attack boats (that could be relatively invulnerable to mines set for a 4,000 tonne plus ship). Those initial missiles don't even need to be a capable threat to the ships - just big enough to look like an approaching anti-ship missile. So at say £100k per armed "decoy" attack, it costs the enemy a mere £5m to fully drain the resources of a £1bn out-turn frigate, and then it is open season on the £6-10bn carrier.

            Western planners use the term asymmetric warfare for this, and study it at great length. But to judge by the equipment that is then ordered, you'd assume they'd never heard of it, and were still planning everything around bringing convoys of food and guns across the Atlantic in the face of a submarine peril.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @Ledswinger

              Arthur C Clarke wrote a short story about this, called Superiority.

              It appears that our government is well-read, since they're able to use this to guide our military procurement as well as they use 1984 to guide their other planning!

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Phew....

    ...which means the rest of the world has to pay close attention in case the Iranians get irate enough, for whatever reason, to close the strait......

    Thank heavens nothing is going on at the moment that may make that happen.

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    A Deeper Look into the Wishing Well ..... and your Future Part in IT

    In British strategic terms, the biggest threat posed to our national interests by sea mines is what would happen to the economy if a naughty state closed a vital UK imports sea lane using mines.

    In a Great British Nation are Seas Sailing Sees into Views for Self-ACTualisation. And here Selling Immaculate AIdDrivers to Perfect Private Assets Providing Heavenly AIded Developments for Pirates Parading Programs Guaranteed by COSMIC Successes to XSS XXXX Levels

    An Interesting Peace in ACTioN is that Reality ........

    What Command Sails the High Sees for the Royal Navy? Or is that Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.

    Is there one/are there any?

    Hmmmm. .... That be a National Emergency requiring Special Attention/AIMeasures/Funding with Markets for Immaculate Fruition .....with Quantum Systems Boots and Reboots/UpGrades.

    Put that to whoever wants an oar in that kind of ACTioN. They'll know exactly how much such is worth and what they be relieved to pay in full guarantee of satisfaction.

    1. caffeine addict

      Re: A Deeper Look into the Wishing Well ..... and your Future Part in IT

      I thought he had vanished from the site. Is he getting moderated away, or have I just been even more unobservant than usual?

  8. AMBxx Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Where do we vote for the name?

    Isn't this a new tradition? MineyMcMinesweeper

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Where do we vote for the name?

      HMS Blaster Bates? HMS Fred Dibnah?

      1. AMBxx Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Where do we vote for the name?

        Upvote for Fred Dibnah.

    2. HildyJ Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Where do we vote for the name?

      The HMS Auntie Mine

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where do we vote for the name?

      No no no! She's MineyMcBoatface, Boaty's little sister!

      (and d*** you for getting there first)!

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Anybody given any thought to Somali pirates (or their equivalent in Arab waters)?

    1. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Not really... No.

    2. Tom 38 Silver badge

      We gave the pirates military support so they can run their own emirates and now they don't allow other pirates, just dig up oil and gas.

  10. Wellyboot Silver badge
    Holmes

    rule 2(b) et al.

    Do we have any readers who have in the past found themselves sailing where a minesweeper doing its thing wants to go?

    I'm guessing slightly more pressing issues than the finer points of various rules may have occupied their thoughts

    'I wish I hadn't worn the whites today' - for starters

    1. Christoph

      Re: rule 2(b) et al.

      So does its programming include rule 2(b) ? Or not 2(b)?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: rule 2(b) et al. - So does its programming include rule 2(b) ? Or not 2(b)?

        I would hope that it has one of these fancy new AI processors which has been fed with that essential navigation manual, How to Avoid Huge Ships.

  11. Arthur the cat Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Who needs an expensive warship manned with expensive sailors …when you can send a roboat off to safely detonate any mines laid by your foes?

    And when the mine laying bad guys board the unmanned roboat and upgrade the firmware(*)?

    (*) Possibly with a shaped charge.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd imagine that the unmanned flotilla has limited range, need regular refuelling and regular servicing, and (looking at them) possibly limited endurance against heavy weather. So they'd probably rarely or never operate out of sight of a mother ship.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        'So they'd probably rarely or never operate out of sight of a mother ship.'

        I'd agree, I'd imagine the idea would be get the mother ship as close as you feel comfortable to the minefield and then deploy the robot mine hunter. If anyone wants to try hijacking a vessel engaged in actively hunting for mines do crack on...

  12. Christoph

    Can they upgrade this to finally do something about the Richard Montgomery?

  13. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    While the idea of sea mines probably invokes that scene in cult classic film Hot Fuzz**

    I don't think so - at least not to anyone with any slightly broader knowledge.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      What?

      You mean the Gilligan's Island mine episode?

  14. caffeine addict

    Qatari gas

    Erm... wouldn't shipping from Qatar go north and through the Suez canal instead of going south, through the strait, past those naughty Somalians, and all the way round Africa?

    1. caffeine addict

      Re: Qatari gas

      Well, I'm an idiot who doesn't think to check a map before he opens his pie hole...

    2. Beafy

      Re: Qatari gas

      I suggest that you look at a map.

      1. caffeine addict

        Re: Qatari gas

        If you look at the comment that proceeds yours, I think you'll find it obvious that I did.

        Just not soon enough.

  15. Chris G Silver badge

    Last time I looked, going North from Qatar will LAND you in Kuwait, Iraq or Iran, you have to leave the Persian Gulf first to get to Suez. That's why it's called a Gulf.

    Oh! The Somali pirates are less of a problem nowadays because the French and an ex Royal Marine friend of mine have shot a lot of them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh! The Somali pirates are less of a problem nowadays because the French and an ex Royal Marine friend of mine have shot a lot of them.

      I believe that the Russians and Chinese have been a little more forceful than either Western forces, or Western contractors.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        I believe that the Russians and Chinese have been a little more forceful

        Indeed. "We put them on a boat and let them go".

        Err.. you forgot to mention that the boat was without an engine, 50+ miles from the nearest coast and half of them had holes in various places courtesy of the marine "rescue squad".

  16. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
    Devil

    Why mine the Strait of Hormuz?

    Wouldn't a more effective plan be to take your own tanker(s), blow the tanker up in the middle of the strait to block it, then blame the 'attack' on your enemies?

    Cheaper than paying maintenance on tankers that aren't doing anything because of sanctions.

  17. Nick Kew Bronze badge
    Thumb Down

    Guto Bebb

    No good will come of this minister. Just look at that grammar[*]!

    [*] Neither will any good come of those who would seek to legitimise it. The (defensible) proposition that some split infinitives are less bad than others does nothing for such egregious usage as quoted here.

  18. Potemkine! Silver badge

    the technique of planting explosives in the sea to blow up passing ships has evolved a fair bit since the First and Second World Wars

    Magnetic mines appeared during WW2.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Indeed. Most technological advances were done by the Germans in WW2. Little has happened since.

      New materials, new electronics, etc - sure. But nothing revolutionary new and all of them are still vulnerable to the good old torpedo boat minesweeping method as used by both Russians and Germans in WW2. I am surprised that it has not been automated - it is a prime candidate for that.

  19. not.known@this.address Silver badge
    Boffin

    "The transmitters generate pings that trigger modern digital mines at a safe distance from either the roboat flotilla or actual human-carrying shipping."

    Is range-gate capture really that impressive? The flyboys have been doing it for years, and to things that are moving a damn sight quicker than a stationary mine...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    So this is the best purchase the RN have had since buying all those early Ford Modeos - because the advert said they were fitted with "Anti-Submarine Seats".

    (Gets coat).

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020