As part of efforts to tackle the threat of waterborne improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and limpet mines, the US government's Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO) has awarded Saab Underwater Systems a contract to develop a new type of remotely operated vehicle (ROV) capability for use in the domestic maritime domain.
Under the contract, announced at Euronaval in Paris, Saab will work with the US Underwater Hazardous Device Team (UHDT) to develop a prototype of its new Water Borne IED ROV (WBIEDROV) with similar capabilities to those of land-based ROVs used in IED disposal. Saab said it hoped to build on the significant progress made in the area of remote IED disposal on land in Afghanistan over the past 10 years.
Speaking to reporters at Euronaval, Bert Johansson, sales director for Saab Underwater Systems, said that US requirements for the system were particularly demanding with regards to strength, speed, power, and weight. He added: "What is interesting is that they are actually looking at employing the same tactics and techniques used on land for land IEDs in the water, which is why the vehicle features a large hydraulic manipulator arm with six degrees of freedom [i.e. can operate in all directions]."
The WBIEDROV is a compact system designed for rapid deployment, including being easily manhandled into the water from a ship or alongside. It can operate in currents up to 3 kt, has 360-degree propulsion, and is fitted with a five-function manipulator that can execute precision manoeuvres.
It is designed for surveillance in all vulnerable locations including harbours, docks, marinas, jetties, and the seabed. WBIEDROV is battery-powered and carries a camera, lights, and a sonar. To remain on station relative to the seabed or to a ship's hull in strong tidal currents, it also includes a mooring system.
Under the terms of the contract, a prototype WBIEDROV will be delivered to the UHDT technical support working group by mid-2015. The contract includes options for further vehicles.
Johansson said Saab was able to use components from its existing commercial and military AUV/ROV systems for the WBIEDROV concept. "This makes it possible to develop a completely new vehicle in less than a year, which is also something that is not a common development."
WBIEDROV is designed to fix, but not search for, IEDs, Saab's defence sales manager Chris Lade said.
"It will be for those situations where you know something is down there, and you have to go back and deal with it. This is why you also need the rigid structure fitted to the side of the ship, pier, or jetty, and you're probably going to place some form of disruptor beside the IED in the same way that you do in a land IED operation."
The objective would be to 'immunise' rather than neutralise the IED, he said.