Hunt when you can

-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE -- The Finnish Navy's newest range of mine-hunters – the Katanpää class – is state-of-the-art in terms of mine localisation technology. They are among the first vessels in the world equipped with Kongsberg's HUGIN 1000 AUVs.

They say that mine-clearing vessels are the mo st sophisticated and difficult naval vessels to specify and build, after submarines. Why? "The ship and its systems have to be shock-proof and at the same time the ship's underwater signature has to be low in terms of acoustic and electro-magnetic emission," says Kristian Isberg of the Finnish Navy. That's a contradiction, as most of the measures you would employ to make a ship shockproof, would also make it noisy. In addition to this complex picture, the mine detection capabilities must be robust, but with a small footprint.

Add to this contradiction the dual missions of most mine-clearing vessels. During combat operations, they localise and sweep mines; in peacetime, they must contribute towards bottom mapping and other hydrographic tasks. The two tasks are related, but require flexibility from suppliers. Enter Kongsberg. The company has worked closely with the Royal Norwegian Navy for over a decade on the HUGIN 1000 Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. It was partially because of this naval experience, and the Finnish Navy's own performance tests, that the Finnish Navy decided to select a range of Kongsberg technologies for the three Katanpää class mine-countermeasure vessels.

"The system that the Finnish Navy is getting is absolutely the latest in state-of-the-art. In terms of area coverage rate and resolution, as well as navigation accuracy, you can't do better than this in one package," says Kongsberg's Bjørn Jalving.

Significance to Kongsberg, and to the Finnish Navy

When the Finnish Navy signed its contract with Kongsberg Maritime and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace for its Mine Hunting Vessel Programme in May 2007, it was a momentous occasion. To Kongsberg Maritime, it was a major event for three reasons:

  • "This is the first delivery from Kongsberg Maritime Subsea Division in Horten, where multiple product lines are represented in the same project, and fully integrated in a common mine-hunting system."
  • The Finnish Navy is the first navy in the world to fully integrate such a complex mine-hunting system.
  • This contract is the first HUGIN AUV contract for Kongsberg in the naval market outside of Norway.

Since then, Kongsberg Maritime has acquired Hydroid, the company behind the REMUS AUVs. The Kongsberg delivery to the Finnish Navy includes two REMUS 100 AUVs. REMUS 100 is a man-portable AUV, designed for shallow water operations and can be operated from RHIBs, or reinforced hull inflatable boats. REMUS 100 has achieved very good market acceptance and is in operation for many navies. Hydroid also manufactures the REMUS 600 AUV, a long range and versatile midrange solution. Kongsberg is actively working to harmonise the HUGIN and REMUS product lines to provide customers with operational synergies and strengthened support and a technology base.

Isberg explains how the Finnish Navy settled on HUGIN 1000 from Kongsberg Maritime. "When this programme was still in the planning phase, we invited 10 different navies from across Europe to bring their mine-countermeasure vessels to our waters. "Here we put them through their paces. Twelve different sensor systems on eleven different vessels were tested, including those from leading Norwegian, Swedish, British, French and Danish companies. What we found was that some of the systems that excelled in the Mediterranean and the North Sea didn't work as well in our Baltic Sea conditions," says Isberg.

Finland's Baltic waters are characterised by more water layers, with different characteristics, and extreme bottom temperatures. During the tests, the Finnish Navy discovered that AUVs, like HUGIN 1000, performed better than hull-mounted sonar systems.

Norwegian Navy and FAT

The Finnish Navy's decision to equip its latest generation of mine-countermeasure ships with HUGIN 1000 was taken independently of the experiences of the Royal Norwegian Navy, but contact with the Norwegians has provided a valuable qualifier for the Finns.

"The HUGIN 1000 was demonstrated to us both in Finland and in Norway," says Isberg. "User experience during these exercises, and input from the Norwegians, was useful to us, though we didn't set up any specific studies."

The contract for the HUGIN 1000 (as well as the EM 710 multibeam echosounder and HiPAP 500 acoustic positioning system) was formally signed by Atlas Electronics of Germany, which was a main supplier. (The Finnish Navy's main partner – basically, the shipbuilder – was Italy's InterMarine.)

"We went to Norway in mid-2010 to take part in the FAT at Horten together with Atlas Electronics and InterMarine. We were all satisfied during this visit that the equipment met the specifications that we'd made," says Isberg.

Current status

As of spring 2011, the first of the Katanpää-class vessels (MHC Katanpaa) was just entering its sea acceptance test phase. Isberg expects this testing to last for three or four months in the Mediterranean, after which the ship will steam for formal delivery to the Finnish Navy.

The second and third Katanpää-class vessels will follow the first at approximately six month intervals. The three vessels will enter into the Finnish Navy as key aspects of its task of ‘Securing the sea and lines of communication'. Functions include: Bottom mapping and route survey, harbour protection, localisation and neutralisation of bottom, moored and drifting mines.

The total price tag for the three Katanpää-class vessels is 244 million euros, of which approximately 15 million euros included the systems from Kongsberg Maritime and Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace. "We're proud to report that our deliveries have been according to schedule," says Jalving.

More about hugin 1000

The HUGIN 1000 is capable of performing high-speed surveys with excellent navigation and payload data quality to a depth of 1,000, 3,000 or 4,500 metres, depending on the configuration. It can be operated in either operator-supervised or full autonomous mode. Additional features of the HUGIN 1000 include a smaller physical size, while maintaining the ability to carry several different types of high performance survey sensors for synchronised and simultaneous operation. The HUGIN concept allows integration of alternative sensors for geophysical, search and inspection purposes, subject to customer demands.

HUGIN 1000's commercial applications

  • Offshore oil and gas geophysical survey
  • Inspection of pipelines and underwater engineering structures
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Hydrography
  • Marine research

HUGIN 1000's naval applications

  • Mine countermeasures – MCM
  • Rapid environmental assessment – REA / Battlespace access
  • Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance

The Finnish Navy is, along with the Norwegian Navy, a pioneer in the use of long-range AUVs for mine-countermeasure activities. Kongsberg's Jalving describes three core reasons that AUVs are on the rise for these activities. They are inherently safer as personnel can stay outside the minefield, they have better data quality, and they have the ability to do fast and efficient operations with no surface visibility. For these reasons, Jalving expects AUVs to be the dominant means of conducting mine-countermeasure operations in years to come.