Thailand signs up for drone mine-hunters

Dec. 15, 2011 at 6:29 AM
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BANGKOK, Dec. 15 (UPI) -- The Thai navy has signed a deal with Atlas Elektronik in Germany for the company's SeaFox mine neutralization submersible drone systems.

The SeaFox systems will comprise a number of SeaFox I units for training and reconnaissance purposes and a small number of SeaFox C combat units for actual mine disposal, Atlas said.

More SeaFox C units will be supplied "over the next few years."

This fiber-optic guided "one-shot" SeaFox C is the vehicle used for destroying mines once the SeaFox I vehicle has identified the target.

SeaFox C automatically relocates previously identified targets and other underwater ordnance within minutes of programming. Once the target is found, further identification and confirmation of target is done using the vehicle's CCTV system.

The target is destroyed with the on-board explosive charges, which also eliminates the vehicle.

SeaFox I is a reusable vehicle specifically for identification of mines. It's based on the SeaFox C vehicle but with the warhead replaced by ballast weight.

SeaFox I is a completely independent system needing no external support, on-board ship facilities or other specialist equipment. This means it's deployable from a wide range of carrier platforms, including dedicated mine-destroyer ships, rubber boats and helicopters, Atlas said. It's also easily integrated in ship upgrades.

Atlas said 10 navies will, or are, using the SeaFox system -- the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan and Germany.

Atlas Elektronik a specialist electronics joint venture company between ThyssenKrupp and EADS. It has headquarters in Bremen, Germany, and has a workforce of around 1,900.

Products include sonars and sensors, command and control systems for submarines and surface combatants, mine countermeasure systems, unmanned underwater vehicles, radio and communications equipment.

In October 2009, Atlas bought the underwater systems business of QinetiQ, based in the United Kingdom. The deal needed the approval of the U.K. government and was "in line with QinetiQ's strategy to dispose of certain non-core assets within its EMEA business and reallocate capital into higher growth investments," QinetiQ said at the time.

The underwater systems business, in Winfrith, England, has around 220 employees. It operates in the areas of hydro-acoustics, sonar, open architecture sonar and combat management systems, acoustic counter measures, submarine signatures, maritime security and control of unmanned maritime vehicles.

The business is a supplier to the U.K. Ministry of Defense and other defense departments and corporate customers internationally.

In September, Volker Paltzo was appointed as managing director of Atlas Elektronic in Bremen. Paltzo, 46, was the chief operating officer of Eurofighter, which has headquarters in Germany.

He took over at Atlas from Kai Horten, who left after five years to become chief executive officer of and president of aircraft manufacturing supplier Premium Aerotec in Augsburg, Germany. Aerotec makes fuselage parts for aircraft including for the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Airbus A400M and the Boeing 737.

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