REMUS and Mine Countermeasures

Originally developed at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the 1990s, the REMUS unmanned underwater vehicle has proved its usefulness with the U.S. Navy and other navies around the world.

Nearly 25 years ago, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) recognized the potential of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to solve some of the Navy’s important operational issues—especially in the areas of mine countermeasures, naval special warfare, and the need for rapid environmental assessment.

Mk-18 Mod 2 Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicleThe Mk-18 Mod 2 Kingfish unmanned underwater vehicle is a direct descendant of the REMUS system, originally developed at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with support from ONR. The Kingfish was first used for mine countermeasure operations in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility in 2012.
(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Blake Midnight)

Small UUVs, such as the man-portable REMUS 100—originally developed with ONR’s support at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution—were seen as ideal platforms for the challenging very shallow water environment. Early science and technology efforts focused on improved navigation and sensors for clandestine environmental reconnaissance, location, and identification of mines, as well as preparation of amphibious assault lanes for clearance by explosive ordnance disposal teams. The REMUS 100 would later become the Mk-18 Mod 1 Swordfish program, which saw its first operational use during port clearance operations in Umm Qasr, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.

Working closely with the Navy program management office for explosive ordnance disposal and antiterrorism afloat systems, ONR began investigating new capabilities for the larger REMUS 600, which would later become the Mk-18 Mod 2 Kingfish.

In 2010, ONR began developing two advanced sensor suites for the Kingfish. One is called SSAMIII—a combined high-resolution imaging and acoustic color sonar that will detect buried mines and significantly reduce false alarms. The second is Atlas, an integrated forward-looking sonar and synthetic aperture sonar that will improve capabilities in confined underwater environments.

As part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Fastlane initiative in 2011, 5th Fleet began receiving accelerated deliveries of Mk-18 UUVs and Atlas prototypes, meeting the urgent need for mine-hunting capabilities in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

Mk-18 UUVs with ONR-developed sensors are now the core mine-hunting platforms for the newly formed expeditionary mine countermeasures companies, which have recently completed their first proof-of-concept deployments.

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