DASA invests in autonomous submarine development

3/12/2020

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has awarded an initial £1 million contract for the development of the first extra-large, autonomous submarine for use by the Royal Navy.

The company developing the equipment is Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd, which will build a test vessel in order to explore potential capabilities of the uncrewed technology. Measuring around 30 feet in length, it will be “significantly larger” than autonomous submarines used for beach reconnaissance, allowing it to operate at a range of 3,000 nautical miles.

Speaking of the contract, admiral Tony Radakin, first sea lord said: “I am enormously excited about the potential for remotely piloted and autonomous systems to increase our reach and lethality, improve our efficiency and reduce the number of people we have to put in harm’s way.

“These XLUUVs [extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles] are at the forefront of underwater systems technology. UK technological developments such as this will be key to the Royal Navy maintaining its battle-winning edge in the underwater environment.”

He continued: “XLUUV submarines are especially adept at covert intelligence gathering. They can leave their dock autonomously and secretly move to the operational area without any embarked crew for up to three months. They are also able to sense hostile targets and report their findings back to the station.”

DASA delivery manager Adam Moore said: “DASA’s involvement is enabling this technology to advance at a much quicker pace and to deliver new capabilities to the Royal Navy years earlier than otherwise possible, making sure the UK stays ahead of our adversaries.

“Not only will this enhance the UK’s strategic advantage but also boost UK prosperity by supporting small and medium-sized companies like MSubs in Plymouth.”

The programme’s first stage will see an existing crewed submersible refitted with autonomous control systems. If initial testing is successful, up to a further £1.5-million will be made available for the project.
 
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Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
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