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DSEI 2021: RN outlines future fleet vision

13th September 2021 - 11:45 GMT | by The Shephard News Team in London

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Future aircraft carrier concept. (Photo: MoD/Crown Copyright)

A concept for containerised modular systems is on track to enter service over the next decade.

As part of a design challenge for young engineers from UK Naval Engineering Science and Technology (UKNEST), The RN is developing a Future Autonomous Fleet programme that will shape how the service operates over the next 50 years.

Forward-looking concepts envisage stratosphere-launched aerial drones, USVs housing smaller autonomous boats and aircraft carriers propelled by biofuels and wind power.

The design challenge also imaged an underwater flagship and other conceptual ideas, including artificial intelligence for low-level planning and underwater logistics systems for transporting munitions and other supplies.

RN Second Sea Lord VAdm Nick Hine said: ‘In a future scenario if we find ourselves unable to compete traditionally in terms of mass, we must think differently if we are to regain operational advantage.

‘The young engineers who worked on this project are thinking radically and with real imagination and reflects how the Royal Navy is thinking too.’

One future vision, the Persistent Operational Deployment Systems (PODS), is already on track to be implemented by the RN over the next decade.

PODS are designed as ‘interchangeable modules’ that can be fitted into ships of the surface fleet. The PODS, similar in size to a commercial ISO shipping container, will give warships ‘plug and play’ capabilities increasing a vessel’s versatility.

Heavy-lift UAVs or autonomous boats could be used to receive or deliver PODS, removing the need for vessels to enter port to offload equipment.

The RN said PODS would house a range of assets ‘vital to supporting’ RN operations. Potential PODS could carry autonomous boats for ISR, quadcopter UAS for transporting supplies, humanitarian relief stores or medical equipment.

PODS could also be used as control centres for Royal Marines Commando operations.

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