The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced that it has awarded an initial £1 million contract to MSubs Ltd. via the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) to develop the first extra-large autonomous test submarine for the Royal Navy. The test platform will be used to gauge the potential capabilities of extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles (XLUUV) for surveillance, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare operations.
At 30m in length, this extra-large autonomous submarine will be significantly larger than other autonomous submarines typically used for applications such as near-shore reconnaissance, allowing it to operate at ranges of up to 3000 nautical miles. The first phase of this DASA program, known as Developing the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Underwater Capability and run jointly with the Royal Navy and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), will retrofit an existing crewed underwater platform with autonomous control systems. If initial testing is successful, further tests will be performed with the new capability.
XLUUV submarines are designed for covert intelligence gathering, able to 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, making them an important barrier for anti-submarine warfare.
Admiral Tony Radakin, First Sea Lord, commented: “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 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.”
Defence Minister Jeremy Quin said: “Submersible autonomous vessels have huge potential and this project could be a game-changer for the UK’s underwater capability, taking our submarine service to the next level. I am pleased that this funding supports MSubs Ltd., a UK based company committed to innovation and research in the autonomous sector. This is a key example of how defence is doing more than ever before to give industry the opportunity to research innovative new technology.”
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.”
Paddy Dowsett, Director Of Business Development at MSubs, stated: “We are thrilled to be awarded this contract through DASA, and have the opportunity to work with defence scientists and experts to develop new and advanced capabilities for the Royal Navy. This funding will allow the Royal Navy to better understand their future roles and for us to remain at the forefront of Extra Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicles (XLUUV) design and manufacture in Europe.”