The ‘Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ship’ project was originally for one ship to protect the UK’s critical underwater infrastructure. Two ships are now planned.
The above image is the RSS David Attenborough and is just a file photo as we have no concept imagery of the new ships.
Speaking to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“This week we saw the mysterious damage inflicted to the Nord Stream pipeline, and it should remind us all of how fragile our economy and infrastructure is to such hybrid attacks. Our intent is to protect them; our internet and energy are highly reliant on pipelines and cables.
Russia makes no secret of its ability to target such infrastructure, and it’s for that reason I can announce we have recently committed to two specialist ships with the capability to keep our cables and pipelines safe. The first multi-role survey ship for seabed warfare will be purchased by the end of this year, fitted out here in the UK and in operation before the end of next year. The second ship will be built in the UK and we will plan to make sure it covers all our vulnerabilities.”
The Ministry of Defence said last year that the ship (only one was planned at the time, remember), which will come into service by 2024, will be a surface vessel with a crew of around 15 people. The crew will conduct research to help the Royal Navy and Ministry of Defence protect undersea critical national infrastructure.
This may not be as new as you think, but at least we have confirmation.
Context and considerations: New RN vessel to protect undersea cables: https://t.co/yO3frx2uJK
Note: 1SL talked of “Two Ocean Surveillance Ships” in his Christmas video address to the fleet. pic.twitter.com/cEQQxLoDUr
— Navy Lookout (@NavyLookout) March 21, 2021
According to a news release from the Royal Navy last year:
“Undersea cables are vital to the global economy and communications between governments. Submarine warfare presents a particular risk of sabotage to undersea cable infrastructure – an existential threat to the UK. The ship will be fitted with advanced sensors and will carry a number of remotely operated and autonomous undersea drones which will collect data to help protect our people and way of life with operations in UK and international waters.
The vessels will also be able to support with other defence tasks, including exercises and operations in the Arctic which will become an increasingly contested area. The cables are crucial to government-to-government communications and the new capability will protect the interests of the UK and its partners and allies. The new ship is being developed as part of a wholesale modernisation of the Armed Forces which will be unveiled in the Defence Command Paper tomorrow. As part of the government’s Integrated Review, the Prime Minister has committed to invest in technologies and capabilities to protect British people from new and evolving threats.”