During Armed Forces Week, BAE Systems and the Royal Navy announce a £3.2 million autonomous boat contract that will increase Navy’s capabilities while protecting sailor’s lives. Such missions could include anti-piracy operations, border control, persistent intelligence gathering, maritime security and force protection, all while keeping a sailor safe from harm.
Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said: “Commencing the trials of the crewless Pacific 24 boat is an important stepping stone in the Royal Navy’s development of its autonomous capability to ensure our fleet remains at the forefront of military innovation and technology, ready to meet the evolving threats of modern warfare.”
Brooke Hoskins, Products & Training Services Director at BAE Systems, said: “It’s fantastic to see the Royal Navy’s first autonomous Pacific 24 enter the water during this challenging time. This milestone has been a goal since we demonstrated the autonomous capabilities of this sea boat last year. It is a key step in supporting Navy X, turning what was originally an innovative research and development experiment into a fielded capability for the Royal Navy. This contract is one of the first autonomous boat contracts for Navy X. We are proud to support the Royal Navy’s autonomous requirements, which includes increasing its operational effectiveness while reducing the burden on, or threat to, its sailors.”
The autonomous capabilities of BAE Systems’ Pacific 24 (P24) Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB), a staple in the Royal Navy surface fleet, could significantly enhance the Royal Navy’s ability to protect its sailors at reach, as the upgraded sea boat is able to execute its own missions without crew and be run from a warship. The autonomous P24 has been procured under the Royal Navy’s autonomy and lethality accelerator programme, Navy X, which aims to deliver new technology into the hands of sailors and marines at pace.
The successful launch of the sea boat took place at Trafalgar Wharf, Portsmouth, earlier this month, in spite of the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic. BAE Systems and Navy X will continue to collaborate on the development of its first autonomous P24 which is carrying out a series of acceptance trials throughout 2020. The success of these trials could determine whether the Royal Navy decides to upgrade or procure an entire fleet of such craft. This could include their adoption on future classes of warships, such as the Type 26 or Type 31 frigate.