A DORSET-based marine technology company has landed a contract potentially worth £28 million to equip the Royal Navy with hi-tech minesweeping vessels that will help save lives.

Atlas Elektronik UK Ltd, based at Winfrith, will work with Babcock to supply an Autonomous Minesweeping Capability – unmanned surface vessels (USV) – that detonate mines.

The first phase of the contract awarded to Atlas Elektronik is £13 million. If successful it will be involved in other phases. The whole deal is worth £28 million.

Atlas employs 260 people and more posts will be created with this deal, the latest to be struck by the company.

Two of the unmanned ARCIMS mission systems have already been delivered to an overseas navy. They underwent trials off the Dorset coast.

The system will include autonomous “Sense & Avoid” capability to enable safe operations at sea. They can safely clear sea lanes from mines therefore removing the “man from the minefield”.

The ARCIMS mission system (based on a specially designed 11 metre vessel) can be transported easily. It can be operated from shore with the minimum of support or launched and recovered from an RN Hunt Class Mine Countermeasure Vessel.

The role of Atlas’s key partner Babcock will be to provide the equipment handling, launch and recovery systems, as well as the requisite structural design, platform system integration and support to the operational safety case. Babcock will also provide the operational training package.

The system will be integrated by BAE Systems within its NAUTIS command system.

Managing Director of Atlas Elektronik UK Antoni Mazur said: “Winning this important Autonomous Minesweeping contract is another significant milestone for us as we continue to expand our business.

“This demonstrates AEUK’s continuing ability to develop, supply and support cutting edge technology from our MoD R&D.”

Defence minister Philip Dunne added: “This contract is an important step forward in enhancing the Royal Navy’s ability to defeat sea-mines whilst reducing risks to our service personnel. It also represents an important development in the Royal Navy’s ability to exploit its international expertise in Maritime Minesweeping and to advance its capabilities in the emerging world of maritime autonomous systems.

“This sophisticated equipment with a range of capabilities will enable our Armed Forces to undertake consistently effective operations and mine clearance in challenging environments.”