Meet Britain’s new ship that will test autonomous and lethal technologies
LONDON – A Dutch company has delivered a test bed vessel to the British Royal Navy to help the service rapidly experiment and field the latest in autonomous and lethal technologies.
The 270-ton vessel arrived at Portsmouth naval base in southern England earlier this week, ahead of its official approval for use by NavyX on 29 July, the service’s Experimental Technology Unit created to lead the innovative work.
Daemon Shipyard supplied the ship less than a year after the order was placed. The ship is a modified 42-metre (138-foot) fast, crew-supply platform known as the Demon FCS 4008. This is the first time a Dutch shipyard has supplied a ship 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 pre-operated, enabling the Dutch Yard to quickly deliver the customized ship within the fast times demanded by the Royal Navy.
The ship is named XV Patrick Blackett after the British physicist who served in the Royal Navy during World War I and won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1948.
NaviX has operated since 2019, primarily exploring autonomous vessels for potential use by the Royal Navy. The experiment unit has tested a number of advanced technologies, including L3Harris Technologies’ Mast-13 autonomous maritime demonstrator as well as a crewless rigid inflatable boat supplied by BAE Systems for potential general duties with the Navy.
The new vessel will enable NVX to be used without placing demands on a low-capacity surface warship fleet in service.
“The arrival of this vessel is an important moment for NavyX’s ability to deliver outputs, and a step change for the Royal Navy. She allows us to experiment with new military capabilities, new technology, kits for the benefit of the Royal Navy and industry. And will give more flexibility to replicate and accelerate concepts,” said NavyX boss Col Tom Ryall.
Britain has said that XV Patrick Blackett will participate in the Royal Navy and NATO exercises, with the potential for upgrades with autonomous technology.
Damon said the 140-square-meter deck on the FCS 4008 provides “a large, unobstructed area for UAVs.” [autonomous underwater vessels] and other cutting edge technology. The extensive interior area, which normally accommodates 100 personnel, is being converted into an operations center and a meeting room.
This is the second advanced technology platform revealed by the UK this month. At the Farnborough Airshow on 18 July, the Defense Ministry announced that it was investing in the construction of a technology demonstrator for the Tempest sixth generation fighter air program.
Andrew Chutter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.