During the ongoing DSEI 2019 at London, BAE systems will demonstrate the next level of integration between an unmanned surface vessel (USV) and a warship of the Royal Navy. This integration will make the USV and extension of the ship. During the demonstration, BAE systems will integrate an unmanned Pacific 24 Rigid Inflatable Boat (P24 RIB) with the combat system of HMS Argyll, a Type 23 Frigate.
The P24 RIB, designed and built by BAE Systems, is the standard sea boat for the Royal Navy and is used widely across its surface fleet. The boat is also extensively used by the Royal Marine, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, Ministry of Defence Police and several allied navies. The P24 RIB is a 7.8 metres long boat with a speed of 38 knots. It can operate for up to 45 hours at patrol speed or up to 100 nautical miles in pursuit mode, while it is controlled remotely or when operating autonomously. The new autonomous system developed by BAE Systems, L3Harris and DSTL can be retrofitted on the P24 RIB. Hence, its integration with the combat system of a warship opens up opportunities across a range of missions, including anti-piracy operations, border control, intelligence gathering, maritime security and force protection.
A key part of proving the technology for future operational use has been to ensure a secure connection between the combat management and sensor system on board the warship and the off-board systems on the RIB.
Cdr Sean Trevethan, Royal Navy Fleet Robotics Officer stated, ” This is much more than an Unmanned Surface Vessel demonstration for the Royal Navy. What we are doing is the first step in exploiting system architecture in a complex warship to integrate an unmanned system into the ship. This ensures the system and its payload fully contribute to the warfighting capability of the ship. Ultimately this will change the way we fight – through integrated command and control – and lead to development of new tactics, techniques and procedures. The P24 RIB is well known to the Royal Navy and has a lot of potential in terms of its payload and deployment as an unmanned system. The Royal Navy is excited at the prospect of developing this capability.”
The P24 RIB demonstrated at DSEI has been fitted with additional sensors and effectors. These include high-resolution optical and thermal camera and Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) system. These sensors are capable of emitting warning messages at distance. The unmanned boats is also equipped with automated navigational decision-making technologies. These systems free up the operator from the task of controlling the boat and allows the operator to focus on mission critical information from afar.
Though the P24 has pre-programmed intelligent behaviours to position itself appropriately in relation to a potential threat, its planned weapons system, remains firmly under a human operator’s control. This ensures that though the vessel operates and navigates autonomously, there will always be a highly-trained operator, making the final decision on engagement and targeting. The system has been developed by BAE systems with MSI systems.