Ship part

Discover the new British ship which will test autonomous and lethal technologies

LONDON — A Dutch company has delivered a test bed vessel to Britain’s Royal Navy to help the service rapidly trial and field the latest autonomous and lethal technologies.

The 270-ton ship arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base in southern England earlier this week, ahead of its official acceptance on July 29 for use by NavyX, the service’s experimental technology unit formed to lead the innovative work.

Damen Shipyards supplied the vessel less than a year after it was ordered. The vessel is a modified 42 meter (138 ft) fast supply platform known as Damen FCS 4008. This is the first time the Dutch shipyard has supplied a vessel directly to the Royal Navy. The company has set up a maintenance operation in Portsmouth to support the vessel.

The vessel was already built but not previously operated, allowing the Dutch yard to quickly deliver the suitable vessel within the fast lead times required by the Royal Navy.

The ship is named XV Patrick Blackett, after a British physicist who served in the Royal Navy during World War I and won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1948.

NavyX has been operating since 2019, primarily exploring autonomous vessels for potential use by the Royal Navy. The experimental unit tested several state-of-the-art technologies, including the Mast-13 autonomous maritime demonstrator from L3Harris Technologies as well as an unmanned rigid inflatable boat supplied by BAE Systems for possible general duties with the Navy.

The new ship will allow NavyX to experiment without placing demands on the service’s understaffed surface warship fleet.

“The arrival of this ship is a pivotal moment for NavyX’s ability to deliver production, and is a step change for the Royal Navy. It will give us greater flexibility to experiment with new military capabilities, iterate and accelerate new ones. technologies, kits and concepts for the benefit of the Royal Navy and industry,” said Colonel Tom Ryall, CEO of NavyX.

XV Patrick Blackett will take part in Royal Navy and NATO exercises, with the possibility of upgrades with autonomous technology, Britain has announced.

Damen said the FCS 4008’s 140 square meter deck provides a “large clear area for UAVs, AUVs [autonomous underwater vessels] and other advanced technologies. The large internal area that would normally have accommodated up to 100 people is being converted into an operations center and meeting room. »

It’s the second cutting-edge technology platform revealed by Britain this month. At the Farnborough Airshow on July 18, the Ministry of Defense announced it was investing in building a technology demonstrator for the sixth-generation Tempest combat air program.

Andrew Chuter is the UK correspondent for Defense News.