Construction of 50th Hammerhead celebrated

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By Carla Allen Transcontinental Media It’s something you wouldn’t normally associate with success – the destruction of a vessel by gunfire and its subsequent sinking—but in this case it’s something to cheer about.

The Hammerhead USV-T is an unmanned surface vehicle target, used to provide training solutions for military agencies in Canada and around the world.

A.F. Theriault & Sons Ltd. in Meteghan River and Meggitt Training Systems Canada Inc. (MTSC) in Medicine Hat, Alta., partnered in 2005 to build these innovative craft and recently celebrated construction of the 50th unit.

The shipyard, one of the largest in Atlantic Canada, builds the Hammerhead hull, while MTSC is responsible for installing electronics and providing training assistance.

The Hammerheads were tested on an Alberta lake in 2006. The German navy was the first client, and the hammerheads were deployed off the coast of West Africa in 2007.

Jim Powell, special projects and development official with MTSC, was on site for the first take down.

He described how one marksman scored an extraordinarily lucky shot with a 27mm gun when a bullet entered the bow and travelled completely through the boat disabling the electronics, severing the telemetry antennae wiring and damaging the engine. Recovery was possible for that unit, but most Hammerheads end up sinking. “They’re designed to be as cheap and disposable as possible. We don’t expect anything back,” said Powell.

The Canadian navy took three Hammerheads with them earlier this year on a two-week tasking to Bermuda.

The Hammerheads are sometimes deployed as far away as one kilometer from artillery, although they have been engaged as close as 200 meters. Depending on the sea state they can zip along at 40 kilometers per hour to simulate a fast inshore attack craft for military training scenarios.

Several fail-safes are built into each unit. A loss of link in the telemetry signal of more than 15 seconds (although this time is adjustable) causes the vessel to throttle down to idle, shift into neutral and perform a starboard turn. Fail-safes have also been built into the microprocessor on board.

MTSC general manager Spencer Fraser says they are very hopeful to have more orders. “This is the first on the market with these capabilities. It’s an ideal training tool in the war against terrorism and piracy,” he said. “It’s innovative and available at a fraction of the cost of traditional training tools.”

Units have been sold to the United Kingdom, South Africa, the United States, and Germany in addition to Canada. “The Canadian navy has been a huge supporter,” added Fraser.

Arthur Theriault, president of A.F. Theriault & Sons Ltd., says his company has enjoyed working with MTSC on the project. “It’s great to work with companies that understand your business and look to you for that expertise, especially since the boat industry in Atlantic Canada has not been at its best in recent months.”

Organizations: Meggitt Training Systems Canada, A.F. Theriault & Sons

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Meteghan River, Medicine Hat Alberta West Africa Bermuda United Kingdom South Africa United States Germany

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