First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones suggested that the Royal Navy may have to remove platforms to afford new technological capabilities in a speech at DSEI.
He warned that the Royal Navy might have to sacrifice platforms to pay for new technology while announcing his far-reaching technology blueprint:
“From autonomous systems operating in squads to artificial intelligence-assisted decision making, what we’ve glimpsed over the past two years has the potential to entirely change our approach to operations.
This requires big decisions with far reaching consequences. Are we, for instance, prepared to remove existing platforms from service in order to create the financial and manpower headroom to introduce new systems which, in time, could deliver truly transformative advances in capability?
Change on this scale can be disconcerting, but if we hesitate, then we risk falling further behind.”
He then detailed plans for unmanned equipment in the Royal Navy:
“So today I can announce the Royal Navy’s aim to accelerate the incremental delivery of our future mine countermeasures and hydrographic capability (MHC) programme.
Our intention is to deliver an unmanned capability for routine mine countermeasure tasks in UK waters in 2 years’ time.
Similarly, from what we’ve seen over the past 2 years, we know it should be perfectly possible for the Type 31e frigate to operate a vertical lift unmanned air system alongside or perhaps even in place of a manned helicopter from the moment the first ship enters service from 2023.
And as a precursor to this, we plan to work with our partners in the aerospace industry to demonstrate such a capability on a Type 23 frigate next year.
So, just as I challenge the Royal Navy to take the next step forward, there’s also a challenge for you, our partners in industry, to meet us half way with credible solutions that can fulfil our requirements.”
The Royal Navy is also looking to introduce open architecture into operational service far more widely to reduce integration costs for new systems. HMS Westminster will go to sea fitted with the open architecture ‘Shared Infrastructure’ operating system.
“If successful, we will roll this system out to the rest of the Type 23s by 2020, and the remainder of the fleet thereafter.”
The Type 31 frigate will be designed with open architecture from the outset.