Type 23 Frigate HMS Argyll has successfully managed to control an uncrewed Pacific 24 rigid inflatable boat (RIB) while at sea, say the Royal Navy.

According to a news release:

“The week-long tests, held by the navy’s innovation experts NavyX and industry partners BAE Systems, saw the Type 23 frigate take command of the RIB while it zipped along the water. The boat’s onboard cameras and sensors gave constant feeds to Argyll, with a temporary operating centre set up in the ship’s hangar.

undefined

But in another first, the RIB’s control system was also integrated into the ship’s Ops Room meaning it could be controlled and commanded from the depths of the frigate.

As well as operating the Pac24 from up to 10 miles away, the ship was able to successfully send instructions to the boat for it to carry out autonomously such as conducting basic missions, identifying targets on the water and cueing its camera and remote weapon station to tracked targets when operated by the trials team.”

Lieutenant Commander Rob Manson, trials lead for NavyX, was quoted as saying:

“This was a great first step in integrating fully autonomous vessels into Royal Navy warships. What we managed to do with these trials was prove that systems such as those to control autonomous and uncrewed technology can be successfully introduced into our current Fleet. Operating with the Pac24 while at sea showed that in the future these vessels have the potential to deploy with current frigates and destroyers and be used for a range of operational tasks.”

You can read more here.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
29 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago

Impressive, but really man overboard would still have too be manned raising and lowering?

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

The real benefit is the ability to automate long endurance, fairly boring persistent surveillance tasks,like patrolling for force protection in littoral waters, or monitoring a sea traffic choke point or landing beaches. These tasks can be automated, without a man aboard the RHIBs can have very long endurance and carry a lot of sensors and weapons and be controlled by a couple of guys in the ops room. Similarly if fitted with a towed sonar they could do the same sub-sea.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago

The issue will always be cost, the more sensors you add, the more it costs. My guess they will be used with basic camera, which would allow some survalliance of beaches etc, but not game changing.

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Saying that, with advances in machine learning / AI, its possible you could place a load of them each with a camera and for the computers aboard the mothership to process the various video streams and pull out threats, at least possible in the next decade or so.

Last edited 1 month ago by Steve
Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Exactly, even with things such as beach surveillance for just say landings one would still expect CDs too sample beach material for resilience to weight of vehicles and landing craft

Mark B
Mark B
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

The cost of the kit will drop depending upon the number of units provided surely. If the RN is providing a small armada of these boats supporting each RN vessel and port we have – the cost per unit should drop to realistic levels. We need to counter cheap enemy drones in quantity with quality RN kit in quantity or we might regret it?

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Hi Steve, Financial cost is not the only ‘cost’. These things could be used in high risk areas and take the poeple out of harms way. Also, for the cost of a single T26 you buy a huge number of ‘drones’. Not that I am suggesting that we given up a T26 – we need as many of them as we can afford, if not more, obviously. These autonomous vehicles could and hopefully will come in a range of different capabilities, simple and cheap like the Turkish TB2 UAV’s and all the way up to high end kit like the… Read more »

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

I think drones are like cyber expenditure, the gov/mod can announce vague statements without spending the money required to back them up, they can also easily be used as excuse to cut ships, again with vague statement how the role is now performed by drone without giving like for like capability assessments.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve

Hi Steve, Politicians can always make vague statements. Our armed forces have been cut to the bone and well beyond what is a sensible minimum without autonomous vehicles even being mentioned. If politicians want to cut they’ll cut anyway and call it ‘efficiency’ I’m afraid. There are a wide range of small and cheaper sensors and weapons that can fit onto small vehicles and provide a capability where there would otherwise be nothing available. Big expensive platforms will still be needed, we are building 8 T26 afterall. 8 is too few, but the numbers were cut long before ASW autonomous… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago

Still have too refuel though

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Yes but even a civvie 24 foot RHIB can run for or 8-9 hours on tanks – but putting a crew through that, espcially in poor weather, would be both dangerous and costly in manpower.

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago

I’ve Got A small boats ticket and yes it’s plays on your spine like no ones business my last post should have included rough weather a Pacific RHIB with all that equipment had better be waterproof

Lusty
Lusty
1 month ago

The boat has obviously been to the Arctic at some point – they’ve given the .50 cal the blue nose treatment!

(I’m joking before people think I’m serious)

Tommo
Tommo
1 month ago
Reply to  Lusty

Do they still dish out blue nose certificates

Lusty
Lusty
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Yeah, they do.

Ships still receive the blue nose as well.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 month ago
Reply to  Tommo

Yep, Blue nose and arse…

Barry Larking
Barry Larking
1 month ago

The future.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago

One of the problems I could see with autonomous surface vessels like this is that the would be easy to pinch unless they are operating close to a human vessel that can protect them.

So for me it’s more about, mine warfare, sub surface work and air assets. Not a patrol boat on its own asking to be stolen.

Deep32
Deep32
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Hi Jonathan, assume for sub surface you are referring to some form of ASW work? If the case, can’t really see that happening, they are far to small and have the wrong type of engine, far to noisy even at slow speed.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Deep32

Hi deep, I was being a bit unclear, for the sub surface work I was taking about sub surface autonomous vessels for things like survey work.

Im just not sure about some form of autonomous rib for patrol work outside of relativity controlled environments, otherwise I can see them just being more trouble than they are worth. I could see a country like Iran pinching one as soon as it was deployed anywhere near its EEZ.

Deep32
Deep32
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

No worries mate, probably me mis -reading posts, bit of a trend with me today it would appear!!!

Steve
Steve
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

I think this is tech that doesn’t answer any questions / capability gaps today, but maybe as the tech advances it might in a decade or two. What the questions are, I really don’t know.

Frank62
Frank62
1 month ago
Reply to  Jonathan

Or hacked.

Jonathan
Jonathan
1 month ago
Reply to  Frank62

Yep very good point indeed. Even quantum keys can be hacked if you bring the correct level of processing capacity and have the time.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 month ago

Looking at what it has onboard it looks configured for interdiction and surveillance type ops.
RWS with a 50 cal.
Thim and TV for surveillance of a target
LRAD to make really, really loud @Heave to!!” calls.

Obviously the aerial farm on the flight deck needs a bit of work !

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Yes for force protection I believe (i.e. to prevent USS Cole type incidents), and for use in Gulf.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 month ago

I think this is an important step forward and proof of concept piece of work. The fact that is is a RIB isn’t really the point, it is a relatively cheap test bed with a range of ‘stuff’ fitted to test the control technology in a range of different scenarios and mission profiles. The big point in this story for me is that an operational frigate was able to host this capability, in particular that the ship’s ops room could control the autonomous vehicle. As GB says the aerial farm on the flight is an issue, but obviously this is… Read more »

James William Fennell
James William Fennell
1 month ago
Reply to  ChariotRider

Pacfic 24 RHIB is good – as they are standard sea boats on escorts and OPVs. Can be easily integrated.

ChariotRider
ChariotRider
1 month ago

Hi James, Agreed, which is probably why they are using it as a testbed. That is not to that they could not or should not be used operationally as autonomous vehicles either. A T31 with RIBS equipped with a number of Martlet missiles acting as ‘wing’ escorts backed up by a couple of quadcopters with also with Martlet (or laser dazzle weapons) would make a great escort in the Gulf for facing down FIAC’s. That’s just one possible scenario we could probably dream up many more – the RN’s NavyX team seems to be doing a very good job of… Read more »