UK's AJAX AFV undergoes further testing
Experts in Marine Robotics Commented on UK’s Ban on Submersibles Exports to Russia
The British government adopted an amendment to the export control act for dual-use products. The document coming into force on August 14, 2019 imposes a ban on export of submersible vehicles and related software and technology to Russia. This is due to Russia’s attempts to develop detection capabilities of underwater cable systems, connection to and destruction of them. Being interviewed by Mil.Press Today, some Russian industry experts gave their opinion on the event.
As for Aleksey Shmatkov, CTO at Marine Geo Service that commercially produces light remotely operated vehicles (ROV), the Britain’s ban is not critical, and the Southeast Asian suppliers will nick in the niche.
"Looking at the schedule, they banned every single thing. I guess lead ballast is the only stuff we can buy now. But I don’t think the Brits dominate the market. Other suppliers will easily hold the fort. Well, Americans make the same things, or Norwegians. Wait, there are sanctions, too. Not a big deal, there’s Southeast Asia like Singapore, Korea or China. Indeed, China’s got very good positions. Then, there’s a British company SMD [Soil Machine Dynamics Ltd – editor’s remark], that makes underwater robots. It is owned by a Chinese company CRRC. Really, the Chinamen will make anything, if needed", said the expert.
Vladislav Zanin, an official representative of Oceanos, a company designing marine robots and underwater hardware, told Mil.Press Today that the export ban would mostly affect the already bought British equipment.
As for the expert, Russia currently operates fairly large number of British ROVs like Falcon and Tiger by Saab Seaeye or Comanche by Sub-Atlantic. Operators of these systems will face some problems during repair, as it will be impossible to order spare parts from the manufacturer any more.
There are two ways out of this problem: either to produce components in Russia through reverse engineering or to find other suppliers. In the first case, the operators bear huge running costs, but acquire expertise in the area of such components though.
Choice of other suppliers is not critical either, says Vladislav Zanin. The Southeast Asian manufacturers step forward again.
"All British submersibles delivered to Russia had sonars made by the UK company Tritech. Azimuth, side-scan, sector-scan sonars, depth recorders, altimeters", said the expert. "As soon as the sanctions caused problems with exports to Russia, the similar sources from South Korea were instantly involved. Their products have comparable features, both technical and financial".
Vladislav Zanin added that the Russian manufacturers were not the least at the sector.
"The market of components for marine robotics is quietly growing, and the Russian one is not an exception. There is an offer in all sensitive technologies. In Oceanos, we’re working on the wireless optical communication systems, which are globally unique. Except us, such technology is available only to British company Sonardyne. In Russia, there are manufacturers of high-quality sonars. Our country can also offer excellent solutions in the area of strapdown inertial navigation systems".
Aleksey Toropkov, director for development at GyroLab told Mil.Press Today about the underwater navigation of unmanned submersibles. The company designs the strapdown inertial navigation systems, including those for underwater drones. As for Toropkov, the UK is little known among the experts in submersible navigation systems.
"The high precision inertial technologies based on closed-loop optical fiber and ring-laser gyros are only available to the US, France, China and Russia. This kind of systems is exactly what is used for standalone navigation of undersea drones. I’ve never heard of any achievements of the Great Britain in such projects", said the expert.
Experts emphasize that in case of demand for corresponding technologies, Russian market can successfully develop.