The UK is looking for ‘an autonomous maritime airborne heavy lift capability for the Royal Navy’.

According to a ‘Request for Information’, the MoD is looking for the following:

“The Ministry Of Defence (The “Authority”) is currently seeking information in order to qualify requirements and develop our understanding of the potential for the market to provide an autonomous maritime airborne heavy lift capability for the Royal Navy.

The purpose of this Request for Information (“RFI”) is to enhance the Authority’s awareness and allow for initial review of a range of maritime airborne autonomous capabilities which currently exist or are in development within the marketplace to support the development of the RN’s Autonomy network and the creation of the Future Maritime Aviation Force (FMAF, the rapid transformation of crewed aviation roles (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Communications, Lift and Strike) to uncrewed).

The Authority intends to use the responses to this RFI to inform future decision making regarding the potential supply of maritime autonomous airborne heavy lift capability. For clarity, this RFI is not a bidding opportunity but a means by which industry can provide information to the Authority.

Back in June, we reported that the Royal Navy was trialling heavy lift drones to supply ships at sea.

The Royal Navy said previously that the use of unmanned air vehicles in the logistics role offers a range of advantages from reduced costs, missions being completed quicker and the ship’s company not being exposed to certain risks.

“NavyX and DARE (Discover, Analysis and Rapid Exploitation) have been working with UK drone firm Malloy Aeronautics and Planck Aerosystems in the development of the unmanned air vehicles for the purpose of moving supplies onto ships.

The heavy-lift drone has already been put through its paces in the harsh environment of the Arctic Circle in the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Advance Force exercise. In northern Norway earlier this year, it proved it could be operated safely in all conditions and could successfully deliver stores.”

You can read more about the previous trials by following the link below.

Royal Navy trials heavy lift drones to supply ships at sea

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ETH

It will be interesting to see how far this is taken and how soon drones will be used to replace the Merlin in the AEW role, or at least compliment it in some noticeable way.

Glass Half Full

Well there’s heavy lift like the previous UKDJ article discussed, using all electric battery power, and then there’s a different order of heavy lift closer to what you you are considering using a helicopter turboshaft engine to generate electrical power for the vertical lift and propulsion motors. The Rhaegal RG-1 is the best example/proxy I’ve seen so far for the type of platform that might support AEW, COD and perhaps even re-fueling roles from a STOVL carrier using a single engine, or perhaps dual engines for heavier lift/greater electrical power capability. https://www.sabrewingaircraft.com/cargo-uav/ Time will tell, but it seems reasonable to… Read more »

John Clark

I would imagine we will see RN operating UAV systems for replenishment and also AEW by 2030.

Arial Refueling would be somewhat trickier and require a substantially larger UAV and more complex machine, able to carry a significant fuel load and carry it for 200 miles with decent time on station when it gets there.

Glass Half Full

Replenishment and surveillance by 2030 probably. Perhaps also dropping sonabouys. Integrating an unmanned AEW platform by 2030 seems a bit optimistic, both for the development of the air platform, which is likely to look more like the refueling platform IMO, and because we’d almost certainly want a new AESA radar system. Leonardo (Scotland) might be the most likely developer for radar, leveraging their Osprey and Captor-E/Tempest radar technology. But such a solution would need to be developed and proven, along with developing radar processing/operation including robust comms that is split between the aircraft and the ship.That’s going to take some… Read more »

Latch71

The Americans tried something like this in the 1950’s/1960’s with the Gyrodyne QH-50 DASH to give ships too small to operate helicopters the ability to drop torpedoes on submarines. Not sure how well that worked then, but with advances in technology I’m sure it’d work a treat now.

Latch71

Apologies for all the bold type above. I’m not sure what happened, and of course I can’t edit the post now.

Glass Half Full

For those interested, the RFI can be found here:-
https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/bcac329d-7e85-480e-a619-521cb0fa561d (a downloadable DOCX file).

The RN is seeking information for over-the-horizon operation and >200kg load carrying capability. Not necessarily both at the same time, although the RFI is interested in companies with capabilities or plans for solutions up to >400kg loads and >10km range combined.

Citizen

How heavy are we talkin’?

geoff

The development of drones will certainly assist in addressing some of the deficiencies inherent in VSTOL carriers as opposed to conventional flat tops. I presume that the essence of AEW is still based on line of sight so the drone would need to achieve both altitude and distance from the Mother Ship to maximise this. Can any of you boffins predict whether UAV’s might be developed in the near future that have the endurance,reach and radar to match that carried by such aircraft as on the big American carriers?

John Clark

Morning Geoff, perhaps when quantum Radar technology matures, we could see systems as capable ….

Supportive Bloke

I’m not sure that quantum radar will help any. The sensor are bigger and clunkier if anything and will probably need to be cooled to have the sensitivity needed. It’s s purely a matter of weight carrying and electricity generating capacity. Weight because a big radar weights quite a bit. Generating capacity because big radars use a lot of juice both for pulse power and for cooling. There is absolutely no reason why CrowsNest or its successors can’t be UAV mounted in the future. If you can find a UAV that is chunky enough. OK you would need to have… Read more »

John Clark

Interesting, thanks SB, the tech will have to extremely reliable, as sending a drone plus AEW radar to the bottom would be a very expensive loss!

Daveyb

Yes, the overall range can be improved by using more AEW platforms. However, the individual range cannot be practically improved. Unless you get the drones to fly exceeding close to each other (near enough touching) and use a singular timing signal to control the drones radar transmission, so they can use mutual interference to not only electronically steer the beam, but also use addition to increase the beam’s range. What using more platforms will do though, is as you say give you target triangulation. By using say three or more widely spaced transmitters, there is a greater chance of a… Read more »

Supportive Bloke

If you codify the pulses but receive them on multiple platforms – sum the data – FFT it does give the sensitivity boost that I described because the signal will be coherent as opposed to the random noise. The platforms can be a ways apart, I am not talking about transmit power but receive sensitivity. These techniques are used in a lot of scientific instruments. As you say you can also code each – transmitter and receive on all n platforms from various angles. This also gives a sort of look for the return less hole opportunity as well as… Read more »

Supportive Bloke

I was rather thinking more that one platform would be the active pinger and the other platforms passive.

That way their time on station (fuel use for generation and cooling) would be increased and also only one would present itself as a target for Anti Radar missiles.

That would still give the detect sensitivity gain that is desirable as well as the ability to pick up scatter.

DaveyB

Bi-static radar is still a valid principle today, I mean we did alright with Chain Home back in the day. But technology has come a long way since then. The beauty of using multiple transmitters and multiple receivers is that by varying and hopping the frequencies makes it much more difficult for electronic surveillance equipment to detect let alone home-in on. It also makes it more difficult to neutralise. What I envisage will be multiple AEW UAV platforms that generate an active-passive network. It combines both lots of active pingers with lots of receivers all operating on different frequencies, but… Read more »

Daveyb

I wouldn’t be expecting quantum based radar being fielded any time soon. If was to be fielded I’d expect it to be fitted to ships first. As these may have the space for the cooling and containment system for holding the second entangled photon pair. Unless they can fid a way of miniaturising the current method that uses a fibre optic as a delay line, as the detection range is proportional to the delay line’s length. I would not expect a quantum radar on an aircraft anytime soon. As they also have to invent quantum memory that could be used… Read more »

Daveyb

It is available today. The Bell V247 Vigilant tilt-rotor prototype has already test flown. It is about the size of a Wildcat helicopter. However, it has a 17 hour endurance (depending on the payload) and can fly to over 30,000ft with a cruise speed over 250 knots. It was part of the cancelled USMC MUX program. It would have been ideal as a small-ish remote AEW platform and a suitable candidate to replace a Crowsnest equipped Merlin for a similar radar performance. For something that is comparable to the E2D Hawkeye, you would need a much bigger airframe. As not… Read more »

Julian

I know that I witter on about it a lot but in terms of bandwidth, latency (very important) and availability might OneWeb be an option for the CEC node if/when the constellation is complete and perhaps with some added software bandwidth reservation features added to the software/firmware? The current constellation already demonstrated > 400Mbps bandwidth at an average 32mS latency over a year ago now (https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2019/07/onewebs-low-earth-satellites-hit-400mbps-and-32ms-latency-in-new-test/). I believe the constellation is intended to have almost 100% global coverage even for the consumer business case and any deficiencies could be plugged by the MoD funding some extra orbits in the constellation… Read more »

Julian
Daveyb

It’s interesting to note that the SpaceX and Telsat are concentrating their satellites between the 60 degree latitudes, whereas OneWeb is global coverage. I’m sure with time One Web will improve their data rates and be more competitive with the other two providers. It does make an interesting situation. The UK Government has a majority share of OneWeb, which has global coverage. Which means technically the military could have 24/7 global communications without paying foreign providers. The other point is the one you raised where the satellite constellation becomes the data node. It means unlike using the E2D Hawkeye as… Read more »

Supportive Bloke

I don’t think that is enough for CEC. A modern radar creates massive amounts of data. To get the full sensitivity gains you need to amalgamate almost raw data and then do the FFTs. If you process the data or even decimate it then you loose part of the CEC advantage. It depends what you are trying to do with CEC. Are you looking wideband at GHz SW at say 10-12 bits or are you looking narrow band at a high bit depth for maximum sensitivity and discrimination at say 24 bits. The latter case would work. The former I… Read more »

DaveyB

I think initially the One Webs average data rate of 8.8GBps would be a significant step change compared to Link 16’s 115.2KBps MSK available from single set. Yes, it’s not the same as SpaceX’s 20.12GBps or Telsats 35.65GBps. Will 8.8GBps be enough to transmit raw data? I’m not sure, but the F35 Multifunctional Advanced Data Link (MADL) is supposed to be in the very high MBps range (US has classified the data rate). It is against what capabilities do you want the CEC to be able to do. If it’s the “basic” system, where each host processes its own data,… Read more »

Julian

I couldn’t find any info on CEC’s data rate, not surprising I suppose since I assume it’s classified. The closest I got was an article referencing “several orders of magnitude faster than Link 16” (I found that last night and didn’t save the link to that reference – sorry). By the way, I assume you meant 8.8Gbps for average data rate of a OneWeb satellite (i.e. “b”its per second not “B”ytes per second). I think there’s also the same typo on the Link 16 bandwidth i.e. it’s also bits per second not bytes per second. Assuming all figures are bps… Read more »

Supportive Bloke

All probably true! This might be a three layer way forward. 1) sharing, as you say, of outputs synthesised together to form a global view – if limited information was required location and vector then this could be done by Link16 2) single point output many detectors. Now this can be implemented, as you say, by having random (or ones in best spot) platforms emitting a coded signal. Data volume squares with doubling of sensors. The data volume is manageable. 3) multi point pings and multi detectors. The issue with this is that the data volume cubes every time you… Read more »

geoff

Wow! Respect for your depth of lnowledge Davey!

geoff

..and to all of you boffins. Where else but on UKDJ!

Paul42

Why not just buy the COD version of the MV22? We’re only likely to need 6, and it could pave the way to buying airframes for the marines, or is what someone, somewhere is afraid of?

Supportive Bloke

MV22 is an old design. And bloody expensive.

As we rehash here endlessly it has a major deign flaw in that the engines and rotor/prop rotate from horizontal to vertical together so all the FOD is blown right into the engine air intakes.

There are better things coming along soon in the UAV arena: best wait.

Also the cost of running just six platforms would be enormous with the support infrastructure costing the lions share.

Paul42

The CMV-22 is just about to enter service and is far better suited to the role of COD aircraft on a STOVL carrier than anything else out there. It had design faults which have been ironed out and it is far more reliable now than at anytime during is active service life. True it seems like an older design now, but simply put its far better in its role than anything ielse in existence, or on the drawing board.