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UK’s Royal Navy Is Planning a Future Autonomous Fleet, Wants “Plug-and-Play” Warships

Gone are the times when the impressive size of a warship and the lethality of its weapon system would be enough to ensure battle dominance. Uncrewed air and land vehicles, autonomous ships and versatile, multi-mission innovative types of vehicles are some of the most important concepts for future defense strategies, according to UK’s Royal Navy officials.
Royal Navy and the engineers at UKNEST are working on developing a future autonomous fleet 10 photos
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One of the limitations of today’s warships is that they are still dependent on ports, whenever there’s a need for specific equipment, like the type required for disaster relief, or supplies. In order to make ships more versatile, no matter their size, the Royal Navy is developing a concept called Persistent Operational Deployment Systems (PODS).

These interchangeable modules that would look like shipping containers, could be transported and then fitted to ships, so that the vessels could be “re-tasked” as fast as possible, without having to go to a port. Heavy-lift drones and autonomous boats would be used to deliver these large PODS to the ships. The PODS would mainly be used for carrying essential assets during combat, but they could also double as medical rooms for crews at sea.

This is just one of the concepts outlined in the Royal Navy’s vision for the future, which also includes an autonomous fleet program that’s meant to transform navy operations for the next 50 years. The program stemmed from a design challenge for young engineers at UK Naval Engineering Science and Technology (UKNEST), a forum dedicated to naval defense development.

Some of the ideas that were brought to the forefront include autonomous fast attack crafts that can hide smaller uncrewed boats, underwater transport units for supplies and munition, aircraft carriers that use a combination of biofuel and renewable power, as well as an underwater flagship at the center of the future autonomous fleet.

The Royal Navy is determined to turn concepts like these into reality, and it seems like it’s got the funds to do it. In November 2020, the British Prime Minister announced a £24 billion ($33 billion) boost, across four years, for the military – presented as the largest defense budget increase since the Cold War.

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