Mine Countermeasures (MCM) include the detection, classification, identification, localization, clearance of, and protection against mines. Traditionally, MCM missions were performed by manned ships and platforms putting people and valuable assets in harm’s way. The threat of mines and the lack of suitable technologies to deal with them has been a primary motivator for the development of AUVs. Without this pressing need, sufficient resources would not have been allocated to advance the state of AUV technologies such as navigation, communications, sensors and autonomy. As the access and security of maritime assets must be assured, the threat of mining continues to be one of the most disruptive to the world’s economy. AUVs offer the most promising and effective response to the MCM challenge.
While sonar is a primary payload for MCM missions, AUVs carry additional oceanographic and scientific sensors that provide critical data to MCM decision makers. Furthermore, AUVs performing hydrographic, bathymetric and biological surveys deliver information to optimize selection and employment of limited assets. Repeat AUV surveys identify if and where mining has occurred through change detection. The use of AUVs in the MCM role minimizes the risk to personnel thus justifying efforts to increase their use.