France's DGA Espadon programme, carried out by ECA Group, Thales and DCNS, has been successfully completed, ECA announced on 8 September.
The programme achieved a number of successes, including the development of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) launch and recovery system from an unmanned surface vehicle (USV).
The Espadon programme was carried out under France's overarching Système de Lutte Anti-Mines Futur (SLAMF) future mine countermeasures programme. It aimed to prove that robotic systems could be used for underwater mine warfare operations instead of conventional minehunters to reduce the risk to minehunter crews.
ECA was in charge of all the robotics components of the system, producing the long endurance A27 AUV, the A18-T inpection AUV, the Sterenn-Du USV remote control system, as well as the AUV launch and recovery system.
During the programme, the Sterenn-Du deployed both the A27 and A18-T AUVs, demonstrating that it was possible for USVs to deploy AUVs for full-scale mine countermeasure operations making way for a new generation of unmanned mine countermeasure operations.
The A27 AUV was selected for the Anglo-French Maritime Mine Counter Measure (MMCM) programme as a direct result of the Espadon programme. The programme has also enabled ECA to develop a solution for the recovery of AUVs in high sea states by the use of a sub-sea cage and docking system.