France Launches SLAM-F Next-Generation Minehunting Program with USVs, ROVs

Infographic detailing the French Navy's future SLAM-F mine warfare system and its main components. The first contract is due to be awarded this month. (FR MoD image)

PARIS --- Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, on October 27, 2020 approved the launch of the Système de Lutte Anti-Mines – Futur (SLAM-F), or future mine warfare weapons program.

This new system will allow sailors to operate remotely from the danger zone through the use of underwater and surface drones.

Placed under the contracting authority of the General Directorate of Armament (DGA), the program is intended to renew French naval mine warfare capabilities.

SLAM-F will eventually replace all current mine warfare means (Tripartite mine hunters, sonar towing vessels, and mine clearance diver support vessels).

In particular, it will contribute to ensuring the freedom of navigation of the nuclear submarine deterrent force by securing the operations of the French Navy’s strategic ships, including its ballistic missile-launching nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.)

It will thus make it possible to protect access to French ports and, depending on the circumstances, to support the deployment of a naval action force, to secure the evacuation of nationals, to participate in crisis prevention or to intervene in contested environments.

The SLAM-F program consists of four main components:

-- drone systems that can be remotely piloted from the ground or from a dedicated vessel. These are the heart of SLAM-F and are the subject of Franco-British cooperative effort called Maritime Mines Counter Measures (MMCM), within the framework of the Joint Organization for Cooperation in Armaments (OCCAr);

-- mine warfare vessels (Bâtiments de Guerre Des Mines, BGDM) which will deploy and operate the remotely-piloted drones;

-- new-generation mine clearance diver support vessels (Bâtiments Bases de Plongeurs Démineurs de Nouvelle Génération, BBPD NG);

-- a mine warfare data operating system (Système d’Exploitation de Données de Guerre des Mines, SEDGM).

The program, as defined by the 2019-2025 military programming law, provides for eight anti-mine drone systems (four of which are to be delivered by 2024), four to six mine warfare vessels and five new support vessels for mine clearance divers, to be delivered around 2030.

The design study and the production of the prototypes of the drone system have been awarded to Thales, with the company Études et Constructions Aéronautiques (ECA) as main French subcontractor.

The industrial organization of SLAM-F will be gradually defined during the award of the contracts relating to the various components of the program.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: According to present plans, France will order the following components as part of the SLAM-F program:
-- 8 mine detection, identification and neutralization modules, each with two Unmanned Surface Vessels, two Autonomous Underwater Vessels, one Remotely Operated Vessel with towed sonar;
-- 4 to 6 BGDM minehunters which will replace the ten Tripartite-class minehunters currently in service;
-- 5 BBPD-NG new-generation diver support vessels.
The contract to be awarded this month will launch production of the Anglo-French Maritime Mines Counter Measures by Thales, with initial deliveries due by 2022.)


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