A DORSET business has landed a £25million contract to make three unmanned minesweepers for the Royal Navy.

Autonomous craft made by Atlas Elektronik, of Winfrith Newburgh, will detect and destroy sea mines.

Seventy-three jobs will be supported by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) order for the combined influence minesweeping (Sweep) systems, which will be the first of their kind.

Defence minister Jeremy Quin said: “This next-generation autonomous technology will be instrumental to our goal of protecting the safety and security of our personnel, while reaffirming the UK’s unwavering commitment to improve the safety of international waters.”

More than 25 jobs will be supported directly through the contract, plus 48 more in the supply chain.

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The sweepers will allow naval personnel to neutralise mines remotely from a safe distance.

Each Sweep system consists of an autonomous service vessel which tows a sensor unit. The system is controlled by a portable command centre that can be sited on sea or land.

Atlas Elektronik’s managing director, Dr Antoni Mazur, said: “Our mine countermeasures have produced a system the Royal Navy will be able to exercise to their advantage.

"The coming years will be a great opportunity to evaluate this capability in an operational environment and fully realise the benefits of autonomous mine countermeasures.”

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The first system will be delivered in late 2022 for operational evaluation.

South Dorset MP Richard Drax said: “It is the kind of world class innovation we have come to expect from Atlas Elektronik and I am delighted that their UK base is here in South Dorset, where the technology park continues to go from strength to strength.”

Sir Simon Bollom, chief executive of Defence Equipment and Support – the MoD’s procurement arm – said: "This Sweep technology follows the contract negotiated for autonomous mine hunters and provides the Royal Navy with the increased capability they need to deal with modern mine threats."