Published 11 December 2023

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A former specialist offshore support vessel purchased to carry cutting-edge autonomous minehunting systems has been delivered by DE&S to the Royal Navy.

The 6,000-tonne RFA Stirling Castle, will deploy the systems to locate, identify and neutralise mines and underwater explosive devices, particularly in UK waters, as well as gathering further critical data for analysis.

Technology onboard will include the joint French-UK Maritime Mine Counter Measures (MMCM) system, the Combined Influence Sweep (SWEEP) system and Medium Underwater Autonomous Vehicles (MAUVs).

RFA Stirling Castle has undergone military conversion and will be operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, with trained Royal Navy personnel operating the state-of-the-art systems onboard.

The vessel was procured by DE&S’ Mine Hunting Capability (MHC) programme, which employed innovative strategies and ways of working to deliver at pace.

The ship’s official delivery comes just four weeks after RFA Proteus, which will carry specialist autonomous systems to safeguard vital seabed telecommunications cables and oil and gas pipelines that are a target for hostile states.

Team leader Gareth Morris, said:

“The delivery of RFA Stirling Castle is another proud milestone for a team that has worked with great diligence to deliver two highly capable vessels that will ensure our Royal Navy has the competitive edge.”

Rear Admiral Paul Carroll, Director Innovation and Future Capability at DE&S, said:

“RFA Stirling Castle’s entry into service marks another milestone in the Royal Navy’s drive to field uncrewed and autonomous systems across a range of operations.  It isn’t just about the ship and the systems, but about how we bring together diverse teams with the right tools to learn at pace and stay ahead of adversaries.”