Royal Navy to trial autonomous boat from BAE Systems29 June 2020

BAE Systems and the Royal Navy have announced a £3.2 million autonomous boat contract that will look to increase the Navy’s capabilities while protecting the lives of sailors.

It is said that the autonomous capabilities of BAE Systems’ Pacific 24 (P24) Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) 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.

At 7.8 metres long, the P24 offers a top speed of 38 knots (nearly 44 mph). The manned version of the P24 is used extensively by today’s Royal Navy surface fleet, being embarked on a number of warships and Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels.

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, added: “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 successful launch of the sea boat took place at Trafalgar Wharf, Portsmouth, earlier this month. 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.

Adam Offord

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