HMS Princes of Wales was the setting for the Future Maritime Aviation Force Accelerator Day, bringing together experts from the Royal Navy, MoD and industry to meet and discuss the vision for drone operations.

The Royal Navy say here that this comes as the navy seeks to develop and invest in the latest technology, bringing new, world-beating equipment to the frontline quicker.

Autonomous and crewless technology from different companies was on show on board HMS Prince of Wales. Picture: LPhot Dan Shepherd

Brigadier Dan Cheesman, Chief Technology Officer for the Royal Navy said that the event was about seeing how the Royal Navy could build-on and gain advantage from the pace of technological development already underway in the commercial sector.

Autonomous and crewless technology from different companies was on show on board HMS Prince of Wales. Picture: LPhot Dan Shepherd

“The aim is to transition rapidly from what we have now to whatever we want in the future. We live in an exponential world of technological change and if we can integrate the latest and get it on operations, it will deliver battle-winning advantage. Specifically, getting that technology onto ships like HMS Prince of Wales would be a game-changer. We are working in collaboration with companies like the ones here today to understand how they can help us move faster.”

undefined

Trials earlier this year in Norway saw unmanned systems used on HMS Albion and last year on HMS Argyll. Going forward, all Royal Navy ships will possess open architecture, fully-networked, organic crewless aviation systems with Prince of Wales being at the forefront of a series of trials, say the Royal Navy.

undefined

As previously announced by First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin, this will see the aircraft carrier being used as a testbed for un-crewed aerial vehicles.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
43 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mark B

Excellent. Good to see the RN embracing what seems highly likely to be part of the future

Steve

Whilst i fully agree its good that the RN is investing in future tech and drones clearly are the future. The cynic in me makes me think they are using the Prince of Wales as a center for this (rather than any ship that is available at the time) because they are trying to distract from the stupidly slow buy rate of the the F35b and low number of helicopters overall.

Spencer

It’s certainly easy to see it that way, we can only hope the buy rate of the f35 increases and hopefully also the acquisition of more helis too, especially now we have a carrier force again.

Mark B

The realist in me thinks it is more like that the F35 issue is to do with politics. It’s election year in the states and a UK/US trade deal is being dreamt up. Once that is all sorted out I suspect everyone might celebrate with a few deal signings.

Steve

Let’s hope not, as the US trade deal seems at least a few years out.

Mark B

Unless I’m missing something both sides will be reluctant to see a period where there is no deal in place. It might focus minds

Steve

Simple answer is politics. The US don’t want a deal until we have sorted ours with the EU. The EU is by far our biggest trade partner and way more important to get a deal in place and yet it looks like we will crash out without one or atleast not a full deal. US deal won’t be easy to agree as they will want a lot in return

Mark B

As it seems in all parties interests for a US deal to be struck and soon – the same applies to the EU.

I fully expected the discussions to continue to the 11th hour. It is a negotiation.

Can the EU really look the 27 in the eye a say that it is in their best interests to reject a deal with the UK especially when we are all still reeling from Covid.

The 27 are already worried their electorate are tired of the EU concept. Who would take the risk this might come back to bite them.

James

The term crash out falls into the cliff edge blah blah category. The only real negotiating tool we have with the EU is to have no deal on the table, as it was kindly removed by the remain fanatics it put us in a ridiculous position of not being able to negotiate. It simply wont happen but I for one am very happy it is back in the fold as it gives us something to negotiate with and something that the EU27 are genuinely desperate to avoid. As much as the EU as a whole is our biggest trading partner… Read more »

Steve

The EU is a massive trading block and the impact to them is not as significant as it will be to us, and they know it. Like it or not, it’s a big guy negotiating with a small one, there is no reason why they should back down on anything (talking objectively here as clearly I like all of us have a vested interest in them doing so). They didn’t really do it with anyone else, including the US or China. I have no doubt that Boris will completely back down, like he did with the May’s deal or us… Read more »

Joe16

I understand the frustration, but I would rather the buy rate remain slow at present. My understanding is that the current batches of aircraft have the older DAS, and the new one will be rather a lot better. It would make financial sense for us to keep the buy rate low until the batches have the new system fitted from new, and are that much closer ot Block IV off the production line. It’s not like we have the pilots to fly them yet, and we don’t need more than we have for the first operational cruise next year, excet… Read more »

Steve

Whilst i get your point, we only ‘need’ military gear when a war happens. If wars were predictable a few years ahead, we could have no military and just build it up when we needed it, but unfortunately they tend to come as a surprise.

Hanging on for the full order (128 or whatever number we finally order) makes a lot of sense, but having spent a whole load of money on the carriers, it would be sensible to speed up the first active 20 odd jets needed to make the carriers viable, should they be needed.

Mark B

Good point Steve.

Robert Blay

We will be able to deploy 24 British F35’s by 2023. The last time we deployed a greater number of a single fast jet type was way back in 2003 with the Tornado GR4 (32). So 24 is a good number for this day and age, especially with the capability of the F35. And the MOD still plans to be able to deploy 36 in the future.

Joe16

I take your point, things are never certain! Having said that, I still think caution/slow at the moment is the best option. Not just for financial reasons: We should remember that we have been out of the carrier game for a while, and the US makes it look very easy when it really isn’t. You only have to look at every other carrier operator (maybe except for France, they seem to do OK too) to see that this is difficult. I know we like to joke about the incompetence of Russia, China, India etc. but they are capable- particularly their… Read more »

Ian

I totally agree with you Steve…….we have the ships so let’s get some planes to fly from them please…..

Nick Bowman

I had a similar thought – that it is a misuse of a very significant asset, and a distraction from the lack of F35s. To be charitable, the drones will need to be test flown from a carrier, so this seems to be a good time to do it. That F35 buy rate really needs to be increased, though.

Robert Blay

The Prince of Wales was used as a launch day venue, it doesn’t mean it’s going to spend the next 5 years sailing round with nothing more then tiny drones flying from it, and no F35’s or helicopters. 🤦‍♂️ The tech could be used on a carrier in the future, or any other vessel that might need them.

Dern

Also worth noting that we’re unlikely to have both Carriers at sea with a full airwing at the same time anyway…

Robert Blay

That is very true Dern, and has never been the requirement. Having two carriers means one will always be available 365.

Daveyb

From the link to the RN site. The UAVs all seem to be quite small and predominantly for surveillance. What is missing from this trial are the larger UAVS like the Schiebel S100, Fire Scout, Airbus VSR700 or the Leonardo AWHero. Perhaps these and some others will part of a further trial?

Cam

Let’s hope so.

Joe16

I was thinking exactly the same thing, we seem to be playing around with stuff that is not seemingly a step on than what we successfully trialled and operated in the form of Scan Eagle. I’m not quite clear what we’re gaining from this, to be honest. Scan Eagle was apparently really rather good, and we could easily have got some of them long term, and now be trialling the bigger stuff that you mention above. I think any of them, stationed on T31, and even T26 alongside a Merlin/Wildcat would be a massive step in capability and endurance of… Read more »

Gunbuster

The scan eagle footprint onboard was to say the least huge!. Big pelicases for the bodies and wings. A large catapult to launch it. The catcher gear to recover it. Operators to fly and maintain it ( Civvies) plus all the electronics that needed to be bolted on for control and data links.
It took up a good third to half of the hanger space when onboard. it was good at doing what it did but there a better ways of launching drones onboard ships hence a lot more vertical take off efforts.

Joe16

Interesting, I didn’t realise that! Actually working with the system is always different to the top level capabilities list.
I guess I just feel that these current tests are almost recycling looking at a capability (small surveillance UAV) that we already had, rather than move on up (Firescout, for example). Does the fact that they’re rotary wing really make so much of a difference that they can’t move up to a larger scale as well as switch propulsion type?
Maybe I’m wrong though- happy to be told otherwise.

Daveyb

For a fixed wing UAV such as the Scan Eagle or even the Desert Hawk, you will always need a means of assisted launch. Especially when launching from a small footprint such as the helipad at the back of a T23 etc due to the required take-off length. The beauty of the rotary UAVs that were tested on the Prince of Wales, is that they all use vertical take-off, so no catapult, bungies or catch nets are required. However, this comes at the expense of duration and operating height, as you are relying on the rotors to provide lift and… Read more »

Herodotus

And why is the guy with the beard waving the Union Jack?

Meirion X

It appears to be, but it is not!
The Jack is hosted on a pole behind the guy in light blue T-shirt.

Daveyb

And why not…

john melling

I would rather see them tested off dedicated ships for drones
Not on the PoW, but it gets some eyeballs on it b;P
Certainly a few ideas for surveillance drones.
Guess it’s still a while off until we see what they accept into use.

Herodotus

Looks as if HM Coastguard are ahead of them?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-53600780

Longtime

Herotus, I assume that’s a 1000 in a CG colours, they have also openly stated they would like bairstow to investigate 2x SkyGuardians in Search and rescue fitout for long range and duration search’s.

john melling

Good to see HM Coastguard show some new approaches to saving lives

Paul T

UKBF are operating a Drone over the English Channel also.

DRS

We definitely need a few of these S100 with Thales-i-master SAR pods etc. 1/2 per river class perhaps instead of a helicopter and in addition to one on T31,T26,T45 . On a carrier I think 4-6 in addition to your normal helicopter force. Can be a force multiplier for all platforms. Especially for the rivers etc if we add a martlet/two.

Ian

Yes John…… a 3 billion pound test bed…..our biggest ship with a few mini sized drones…..seems a bit of a miss match…….

john melling

Which is why the UXV Combatant or similarly designed ships would be of use

Mark B

Anybody in the business of building drones must look to the commercial markets first because the MOD drag their feet and turn everything into a project lasting decades. Quite frankly this thing will move so fast it will make their eyes water. The best thing the UK could do is stimulate the market with some seed funding. They certainly will not have to foggiest idea what is achievable and in what timescales.

Pacman27

also interesting to see that the Coastguard (via Bristow Helicopters) are rolling out schiebel 100’s, this is surely the way to go for the RN.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-wales-53600785/baby-shark-drones-used-in-gwynedd-to-help-search-and-rescue-teams

Herodotus

As I have long suspected, few people read my posts 🙂

Pacman27

apologies for some unknown reason I didn’t see it

must refresh page in future

Steve

In theory the military could grab these and use them should a war situation happens, as what happened with the Falklands and gear being grabbed and reused. From what i read they can be armed with Martlet, which would be a useful force multiplier should there be a need.

Gunbuster

Ok they are not big but then again what are we going to use these sized drones for. A no brainer is a man overboard response drone. If some one goes over the side then they are going to be bobbing around, probably without a lifejacket while the helo launches (15 mins on a good day), the ship does a williamson turn and then the seaboat or swimmer goes in. Probably a 5-10 mins timeline and thats on a calm day….. A drone can probably be in the air in a matter of minutes and drop a small float/liferaft to… Read more »