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The UK and France have been cooperating in a Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) program based on unmanned vehicle technology. On the 20th of October the U.K. Minister for Defence (MoD) Procurement Harriett Baldwin and her French counterpart, Laurent Collet-Billon, launched the next phase of a $142.8 million joint program.

The MMCM program will develop cutting-edge maritime mine warfare capability, a capability that will keep the United Kingdom and France at the forefront of autonomous systems technology. The development and deployment of unmanned mine clearance vehicle will help keep personnel safe in challenging maritime environments.

Baldwin explained: “This innovative project further strengthens the U.K-French defense relationship and supports cutting edge research on both sides.The development of advanced autonomous mine countermeasures capability will safeguard our strategic interests, secure around 150 jobs in the U.K. supply chain, and protect our brave and skilled personnel”.

According to seapowermagazine.org, the MMCM program builds on the commitment of the 2010 Lancaster House Treaty to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the United Kingdom and France in order to improve collective defense capability within Europe and NATO.

According to the UK government website, the program is based on a consortium led by Thales – a French electronics group, and includes BAE Systems. The project involves an unmanned surface vehicle with sonar and an unmanned underwater vehicle. The system is designed to defeat sea-mines using remotely-operated, unmanned marine vehicles and sensors.

Such cooperation allows the United Kingdom and France to share costs, build expertise, and increase the ability of their armed forces to work together effectively and flexibly.

A prototype will be delivered to each navy in 2019.

This joint program draws on the expertise of companies from both sides of the channel to the benefit of both nations. Work will be shared between U.K. and French supply chains, as will the considerable export opportunities arising from such innovative technology. The delivery of the program will also open up opportunities for further collaboration on equipment and operations, supporting the security and prosperity of both nations.

Many hope that the MoD’s Innovation Initiative will drive the development of advanced technology and create a culture that is innovative by instinct and international in scope. This commitment to innovation was on display recently at the Unmanned Warrior exercise in Scotland, during which 40 companies and organizations demonstrated the latest unmanned systems technology. This drive for international innovation will be further strengthened by U.K.-French collaboration on MMCM. The success of the program’s design phase is testament to the benefits of such a cooperative approach.