A British-made mine destroying underwater vehicle that can search and destroy the explosives at sea, has been snapped up by the US Navy. The US Department of Defense awarded a £15.5m ($22m) contract to BAE Systems to supply the Archerfish – a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) equipped with an explosive warhead to destroy sea mines.
Launched from ships, helicopters and underwater vehicles, the technology is the only mine neutralizer capable of being deployed from the air.
"It has formed a key part of the US Navy's Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) programme since 2007," BAE Systems said in a statement.
"This important contract demonstrates BAE Systems' ability to deliver equipment that provides greater security and resilience to modern threats around the world," said Product & Training Services Director Les Gregory.
The weapon is named after the Archerfish, a small creature that can shoot down insects and small animals from up to three meters away by firing jets of water from its mouth. Found in tropical countries like Australia, India and the Philippines, these fish typically live in estuaries and mangrove swamps, but they have also been found upstream in freshwater and open oceans.
Like the creature, the Archerfish ROV, which is manufactured by BAE System's Portsmouth facility, can shoot mines from relatively long distances. Once in the water, the Archerfish enters a "hover mode" as it approaches the target, allowing it to take pictures and feed video back to the operator so they can determine the exact nature of the threat.
It can the manoeuvre itself within range of the mine and place an explosive charge, which is used to detonate the mine.
The US Navy contract includes the supply of fibre optic spools, which provide a communications link between the Archerfish and its launch platform. The US Navy mainly use MH-60S helicopters for these minesweeping missions, which are deployed from the navy's combat ships.
Deliveries will begin in September 2017. The contract also includes further options which, if exercised by the DoD, could bring the total value to more than £39m.