The autonomous capabilities of the Pacific 24 (P24) Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) could significantly enhance the Royal Navy’s ability to protect its sailors, say BAE Systems.

BAE Systems say that such missions could include anti-piracy operations, border control, persistent intelligence gathering, maritime security and force protection, all while keeping a sailor safe from harm.

“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.”

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Image via BAE Systems.

Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin said in a release:

“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, said:

“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.”

Lt Cdr Rob Manson, Navy X Requirements Manager, said:

“The autonomous P24 is not just a step-change for the Royal Navy in unmanned operations, it also ensures we remain at the forefront of technological improvement and innovation. While initial tasks are likely to be familiar to our Royal Navy crews who already operate manned P24 RIBs, the autonomous nature of this craft adds huge capability and flexibility. Additionally, this capability can be constantly improved, allowing continuous updates and capability upgrades, resulting in regular additions to the toolbox of our sailors and ships.”

The successful launch of the autonomous sea boat took place at Trafalgar Wharf, Portsmouth, earlier this month, in spite of the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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. This could include their adoption on future classes of warships, such as the Type 26 or Type 31 frigate.

About the Pacific 24

BAE say that at 7.8 metres long, the P24 is a small and agile boat that offers a top speed of 38 knots (nearly 44mph). It is deployed for a variety of tasks. In a military context, this ranges from counter-piracy and counter-narcotics missions, to force protection, rescue and logistics operations.

“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. These include the UK’s new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, all its Type 45 destroyers, Type 23 frigates and Offshore Patrol Vessels.”

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Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago

Will still need crewed versions for boarding and so on.

Simon m
Simon m
3 months ago

They’re optionally manned, so give some capability but maybe have less crew space? But I imagine it’s one of the reasons T31 is coming with four davits & likely T26 will likely carry extra boats in the mission bay 2 manned 2 optionally manned

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Simon m

Ah! I missed that. Good point.

Nicholas
Nicholas
3 months ago

Fitted for but not with……human beings.

Joe16
Joe16
3 months ago
Reply to  Nicholas

Shame there isn’t a like function on here!

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe16

Used to be Joe. It caused almost as many rows as currently.

Steve R
Steve R
3 months ago

How possible would it be to fit a couple of Spear3 to one of these as a remote attack platform, using Type 31 as a mothership?

ETH
ETH
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

And how would the missiles be guided? No radar powerful enough to saturate a SPEAR 3 + booster would be light enough to fit an a 24 foot RIB. And if it’s being guided by the Type 31’s radar (which itself would have a detection range less than 160km over the horizon) why not launch the missile from the ship itself.

I’d see these much more useful as anti-sub/surveillance platforms, rather than gunboats. Just my two cents.

Simon m
Simon m
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

Martlet/LMM a possibility, maybe brimstone/sea spear at a stretch. A little extra range capability for anti FIAC or possible some fire support for amphibious troops. Would be interesting if you could fit something like RiWP to it!

David Barry
David Barry
3 months ago

Well, with todays generation X-boxers just imagine the recruitment potential, deploy several of these around a 31 and distribute the popcorn to the kids as they get to ‘play’ … ahem, undertake, missions. Fantastic.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
3 months ago
Reply to  David Barry

Have a guess what lots of remote operated small calibre gun mount control units resemble… Yep….X box controllers….

Cam
Cam
3 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I thought they were Microsoft Xbox controllers, Well lots of yank robots And drones in Afghanistan Had them. Makes sense I supose.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 months ago

All very great, but before we embark on this weird and wonderful new world, how about simpler steps like putting a simple data-link on the Wildcat helo first? Or investing in the cooperative engagement capability (CEC) on the T45s (as was originally planned and later cancelled for lack of money) so it can exchange a real-time recognised air/surface picture with US navy units as well as our own and allied F-35s? Make what you’ve got work properly before you start buying new toys

Nicholas
Nicholas
3 months ago

You’re quite right of course. I have various toys that I spend money on, but because there are several my spending is split between them and I never really kit each seperate one out properly.

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
3 months ago

It’s just a trial, it isn’t at the expense of any data links or other kit. We can’t, and shouldn’t stop innovating.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay

Good. Let’s hope it’s all it is. Just thought it needed mentioning. My point was that if you can set up the links necessary to control one of these things and exploit the information it gathers, there’s no excuse for not providing a simple data link between a helicopter and it’s parent ship

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
3 months ago

We can and do exchange Real Time Data using the existing Data Links. Link 11, Link 16 and Link 22 .These generate amongst other things Air/Surface pictures that superimpose over the ships own radar/sensor data. T45 will get the ability to share data with F35s which will enhance the surface and air picture immeasurably.
CEC is something different as it does not just provide data , it also uses other units sensors to derive firing solutions for weapon systems.

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Thank you G for that information. Good to know that T45 and F35 will be able to exchange data. Can you please explain the difference between *all units sharing the same recognised air picture enabling the lead ship to order an engagement from the most appropriately placed unit* and *you firing an Aster30 from your T45 using OTH target indication from an airborne F35*? Many thanks.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
3 months ago

An aster is still going to need a data connection to provide course correction data from a firing ship. Missile shots at long range dont fly at the target , they fly to a future intercept point. Sending this info to the missile means that once it goes active using its own radar it will be in the best position to get a Kill. USN Aegis units (Pre SPY6 Radars and unlike T45) need to illuminate the target with a separate tracking radar as the missiles are ( Mostly) semi active homers. That situation will improve as the new SPY6… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Thanks again G. I knew all that and I am assuming that until aster dives onto its target OTH, it’ll receive data updates on an intercept box from Sampson. What you seem to be suggesting is that with SPY6/SM6 the data updates will be able to be provided by an E2D or even a F35 even when the launch ship’s SPY6 can no longer see it? Is that what CEC gives you and we won’t be able to do with our sensors and shooters? Sorry to be pedantic. Cheers

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago

I’d like to add that CEC also minimizes duplication. You can liken Link 16 and 22 to 3g data streaming and Link 11 more like 2g. The bandwidth is limited (partly due to its operating frequency), especially when you compare it with the F35’s Multifunction Advanced Data Link (MADL). The bandwidth of this is huge and basically a significant step change in bandwidth capability, think 5g (it is actually more). CEC does not have the same bandwidth of MADL, but its pretty close, so think upper 4g. MADL also has another advantage over the other systems in that it has… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago

Oops missed a bit about OTH targeting. For such a target the Aster 30 would travel a ballistic path so its apogee is a higher altitude than the target. This has two benefits, one it increases the missile’s effective range. Two the additional kinetic energy means it carries more speed towards the target, crucial for the end game. The F35 has proven back in 2016 that it can act as a remote sensor for a ship to target threats over the horizon. This was down on a trial at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, Where a SM6 anti-air… Read more »

Sceptical Richard
Sceptical Richard
3 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Thanks Davey. Between you and Gunbuster you’ve pretty well confirmed my understanding of CEC. I think it was a big mistake not to implement it at least on the T45s, and perhaps Crowsnest. It sounds now as the gold standard for air defence will be held by a combination of SPY6, SM6, E2D and F35. But Aster is still a brilliant missile and a CEC upgrade to at least T45 and if possible, Crowsnest, would certainly keep our defences up there with the best. Cheers

Andy
Andy
3 months ago

Breakthroughs galore, Navy X is really showing it’s worth.

Andy P
Andy P
3 months ago

Seems to be the way thgg tings are gong so we need to have a horse in the race. Kind of makes sense really in a sci-fi way, we’re getting more and more into that kind of territory and if its going to save lives AND prolong time on station….

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
3 months ago

Its still going to be fairly short ranged (Horizon limited) due to the need to use a LOS real time Data link. Data Links need a lot of bandwidth to be able to pass information. If you start wanting to pass video from for instance a Thermal camera linked to a RWS 50 cal Gun mount along with radar, GPS, Steering commands etc its all going to add up to MB/s of data. Its certainly doable. The Houtis in Yemen have been targeting remote control explosive laden Speed boats by video links using Iphone facetime.The only issue is you need… Read more »

Steve
Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

It depends if it needs real-time data or can make do with a link a second or so behind. If it doesn’t need full real-time, then sat link will solve the range issue.

Alternatively you could pair it with flying drone that acts as a repeater.

Steve
Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve

or have a chain of them that talk to each other and therefore each acting as a repeater.

Simon m
Simon m
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve

Or UAV with data link or possibly Wildcat or Merlin. If on task group ops something like protector or Wedgetail

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
3 months ago
Reply to  Steve

If the boat is armed with a gun it will need a man in the loop and near real time updates. Air drones shooting guided weapons are a little different as the munitions in use are guided so a sat link is OK. Adding sat links repeaters etc just add complexity and increase the chance of single point failure. K. I. S. S. is always the way to go. Small boat data links have been in use for boarding team xeres outfits. Nav dat sent from the boarding team to mother, data and video links from the boarding team to… Read more »

Daveyb
Daveyb
3 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I see the Houtis have been busy again with their Qud cruise missiles hitting targets in Saudi. Being in the general area, could you see Saudi having a go at Iran, for providing the Houtis the means of attacking their country?

Steve
Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  Daveyb

Saudi doesn’t have the capability to take on Iran alone, it would need to coalition. Israel i sure would happily help but i can’t see them two work together.

On top of that i am sure Saudi know that having another failed state in the region would be bad for them. The last thing the ruling minority need is the people thinking they deserve a slice of the pie, which a surge of freedom fights piling in from a failed state would no doubt try and encourage.

donald_of_tokyo
donald_of_tokyo
3 months ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

I think, for these smallish USVs, all sorties will be “within the horizon”. Note that, if the antenna can be located 25m high, its horizon is ~25 km. A 40knot enemy fast boat needs 20 minutes to travel 25 km. Not bad.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
3 months ago

God damn has Docklands changed almost unrecognisably (if it wasn’t for Canary Whard) in the last ten years. Modern architecture, meaning tall, glass, sterile boxes sure are ubiquitous, identityless and boring

Cam
Cam
3 months ago

Yeah and to think there’s no ship builders on the Thames now! Housing and offices instead! It’s so boring like you said.