Thales and Steller Systems launched a new concept in warship design at DSEI, offering an evolutionary link from manned warships, through lean-manning, to a fully autonomous platform.

The Transition Ship (TX Ship) concept was developed by Thales in partnership with Naval Architects Stellar Systems to deliver mass and lethality for naval forces at an affordable financial and manpower cost, while distancing sailors from dangerous, dirty or simply dull tasking.

“This is a thought leadership concept design for navies to talk about and understand,” said Matt Hunt, Mine Warfare Product Line Manager and lead for maritime autonomy for Thales in the UK.

“However, it’s not just a pretty-looking boat; it’s got credible engineering and rigour behind it from our partners Stellar Systems who have a reputation as disruptive thought leaders.”

According to the firm, the 70m trimaran platform would have a range up to 6000 miles, heavy-lift flight deck and extensive payload mission bay. It could be lean manned, with a crew of 15, or operate in autonomous or remotely controlled modes.

Modularisation and a capacity for ISO containers, including self-contained crew accommodation, puts the emphasis on versatility.

“TX Ship’s trimaran hull gives it the stability to accept heavy lift helicopters, such as the Royal Navy’s Merlin, on its flight deck and a large mission bay as well as port and starboard launch and recovery systems under each wing. The mission bay could accommodate specialist equipment for tasks including:

  • Mine countermeasures operations
  • ASW picket ship or unmanned decoy
  • Role One casualty medical facility
  • ISTAR
  • Covert forces insertion/extraction
  • Emergency or transit Helicopter Landing Site
  • Amphibious support/littoral strike using land weapon systems such as MLRS from its deck

TX Ship’s versatility extends to its concept of operations, from close support to extended reach, operating independently or as part of a task group, its activity would be integrated through Thales’s M-Cube and MAPLE mission control systems.”

Payloads would also include unmanned vehicles so TX Ship could also act as a mothership in its own right, alongside manned ships in hybrid operations, say the firms.

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andy reeves
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andy reeves

welcome to the future.

Pacman27
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Pacman27

As many of you are aware I am a big advocate of a rebalancing of the fleet , now we have the 2 main parts (T26 and T31) we do need to look at a corvette (not a dirty word in my books) to give us mass in the 70-100m size platform. This vessel deserves consideration for the C3 Corvette ship, although it will need up arming. Whilst I still believe something similar to a Visby or C-Sword 90 is more appropriate, if this could be worked up further it is a contender. Price would need to be less than… Read more »

Herodotus
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Let’s hope it is built on the Clyde!

andy reeves
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andy reeves

stuff the clyde

Mark
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Mark

Perhaps we need to think out of the box and give some other part of the UK a go especially as the Scottish yards seem booked. It might generate a bit of competition

Herodotus
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They would have suited the small Appledore facility!

Mark
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Mark

true

Cam
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Cam

Just don’t tell the SNP!

Russjm
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Russjm

That seems like an eminently sensible theory and is easily procurable; their are plenty of Hull designs around. Including the TKrupp model being heavily adapted for the IDF(N). The IN is confident their expected Sa,ar 6 types can take on bigger class ships, act as air defence pickets and defend the gas rigs who’s position is currently disputed. Or, at some point in the future be used to control semi/autonomous vessels. Considering cost alone; why spend the money on frigates or destroyers to escort adversaries ships through the channel when a properly armed, sensor loaded corvette can do the same… Read more »

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

That sounds eminently logical … so probably not a starter anytime soon.

Daniele Mandelli
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Daniele Mandelli

Agree on Corvette types for the RN.

Mark
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Mark

We need to think in terms not just of hulls but what that hull brings to the party. For example you can’t even begin to compare a type 42 to a type 45. One of the big things for me is if you take people off a ship you save their lives but you also make room for additional assets.

the_marquis
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the_marquis

Not to be cynical, but… You sound awfully optimistic that the T26 and T31 orders will hit the water… Right now, the 8 T26 and 5 T31 as ordered are a far cry from the 10 C1 ASW and 8 C2 GP frigates that were outlined in the FSC programme from the mid-2000s, and, as the FSC programme was developed in the mid-2000s, a lot of the assumptions which were made at that time are no longer applicable. It would be lovely to say they were no longer applicable because the world had united, joined hands and said: “we are… Read more »

Pacman27
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Pacman27

Not cynical at all, but I do think sites like this can help in bringing ideas and pressure to bear, it is after all Think Defence that came up with T31, so someone is listening somewhere. No one disagrees with your assessment, but it also has to be said that a T23 cost £100m and a T26 cost £1.2bn the sums are staggering. The key is that the UK needs to spend 2.5% on defence (circa £52bn) if it is to support an industrial strategy and for us to remain the only tier 2 player in the world and needs… Read more »

Mark
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Mark

Not sure about the T26s but the way the T31 contract seems to be worded suggests that the Government will have to pay out at least 1.25Bn whatever. Cutting the numbers might even increase costs. No benefit in cutting the numbers then. The war drums are sounding in the middle east – under these circumstances adding assets seem the most likely outcome.

the_marquis
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the_marquis

Yeah I see your point, but I would rather prioritise getting frigate numbers back to where they should be, as set out in the mid-2000s with the FSC programme, i.e. 10 C1/T26 ASW ships and 8 C2/T31 GP ships. It was back then when the concept of two types of frigate was originally conceived, one high end for ASW work, the other less sophisticated but cheaper and designed with general purpose duties in mind. We just spent 10 years dithering over designs and numbers, wasted a lot of money building ships we hadn’t intended operating due to contractual obligations and… Read more »

Pacman27
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Pacman27

I think we are agreeing. My C3 is essentially a corvette to replace all the MCM echo and OPV fleets and get a bit of bulk back into the fleet I don’t see the need for 3 classes these days when unmanned systems will be loaded for task That’s the really good thing about t26 and t31. They have space to take on load outs for a given tasking A C3 would still be punchy but smaller and a clear stepping stone to a bigger command There are loads of examples to choose from. I prefer the sword 90 or… Read more »

the_marquis
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the_marquis

Yeah I would happily agree with your planning for a corvette class tasked with those missions, and it’s also no surprise that the C3 variant of the old FSC was conceived to do just that. So again, after ten years wasted, we are limping round in a circle to the same place we were about 15 years ago. It’s all very frustrating because we have wasted so much time, money, jobs, and even shipyards by trying to reinvent the wheel.

Derek
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Derek

It seems to me that 8 t31’s would then suddenly make 8 t26 + 6 t45 a very credible high end escort fleet. At an additional £750m, that is a very cheap force multiplier to release these escorts from other duties to concentrate on CSG training and tasking and NATO escort duties to support allies.

That should also allow some funding headroom for up arming the fleet to become a value for money effective blue water global navy.

James Fennell
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James Fennell

Where this concept really scores is for low manning requirements and mission flexibility. As part of a replacement package for the MCMV fleet (along with ARCIMS) we would also get a vessel that could provide an ASW screen (along with some extra-large unmanned underwater vessels), force protection against swarm attacks and support Littoral Strike as an SF insertion and NGS platform. As far as weapons go for these roles the base vessel needs nothing more than a small calibre gun-missile system on a RWS, a VSTOL UAV and a small USV (such as an autonomous RIB with an RWS). Plug-ins… Read more »

DaveyB
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DaveyB

The problem with reducing manpower as the QE and the US Navy LCS have found – it puts to many hats on the people remaining. For instance the LCS ships were originally planned to have a crew of 40 with additional crew for the mission modules. However, they quickly found they were short. For example they had enough to launch a rib, with a small team on board, but if they had to also do damage control, there was nobody spare. They have now settled on a main crew of 50, with an additional surge crew for the modules. Its… Read more »

James Fennell
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James Fennell

Yes but there is a difference, these are essentially autonomous optionally-manned systems, designed to build confidence in unmanned capabilities by providing a tiny back-up crew to override the systems if something goes wrong. LCS and other lean manned ships are not autonomous systems, rather they contain a lot of automation to reduce manpower requirements – a very different thing. An unmanned surface vessel can be much smaller and have much longer endurance than a manned vessel of similar capability. Very useful for entering and operating in littoral waters which are protected by the anti-access/area denial systems such as China and… Read more »

P A J
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P A J

We need a few well armed resources protection vessels that can stand heavy seas and are sturdy enough to take a ramming from foreign trawlers etc. resisting arrest. Corvettes are not sturdy enough to take on trawlers.

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

Our Frigates weren’t sturdy enough to take on Icelandic patrol vessels back in the day, doubt they are any more so now.

Russjm
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Russjm

I’m afraid I don’t see that logic at all and there are one or two examples I can think of that would undermine it for example back in the 70’s before Star Wars there were – cod wars.

Pacman27
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Pacman27

During the cod wars, RN frigates had to be reinforced so they could ram trawlers, it also should be noted we didn’t really come out of that experience with flying colours. We need to have the T26 armed to the teeth, the T31 unarmed eventually and a load of corvettes with the current T31 proposed fit out. But everything takes time. To Change the RN will take 20 years minimum and if you look at what is happening now, many of the key pieces are there and we just need to be careful on next steps for replacing the RFA… Read more »

Frank62
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Frank62

Hackers seem to get in everywhere, so eventually all UAVs could be turned against us. They can also crash, in the PC sense or develop any number of faults that’d need fixing when it’s very dangerous to recover them, let alone any battle damage. So I’d limit the excitement about these.
Probably better to keep them lightweight & expendable rather than too costly to lose.

Sean
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Sean

PC’s crash because they run Microsoft Windows.
Plenty of computer operating systems out there that run continuously for years at a time without ever crashing.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

Not True, both Linux and Unix(mac os) can crash after a few months! Caused mostly by kernel updates!

Sean
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Sean

After a 30 year career in IT I’ve never seen a Unix system crash, and in 13 years of Mac ownership I’ve never experienced one either.
The reason for their stability is the kernel, unlike Windows which isn’t a real kernel base system – which is disappointing given that David Culver who designed Win NT did such a great job on Dec VMS.

Mark
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Mark

Any weapon system can be stolen and turned against you surely. Whilst I agree that we should be aware and need to guard against vulnerabilities I would point out that when they invented the tank people were probably pointing out the dependence upon fuel and a tendency to break down however nobody nowadays is suggesting we go back to the horse are they?

the_marquis
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the_marquis

I think there is a strong ethical argument against the use of autonomous weapons systems, and remotely controlled vehicles will be vulnerable to cyber warfare attack, as illustrated by the RQ-170 Sentinel that the Iranians downed in 2011. That being said, this could be used for routine sailing, repositioning ships during peacetime round the world, carrying out mine clearance and ASW patrols alongside manned vessels. Furthermore, the commercial applications could be very lucrative. The question would be about damage control and contingency planning should there be a systems fault in bad weather when the ship is heading for some rocks…but… Read more »

Stephen
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Stephen

Unmanned is the future, there will be ways to counter it, and ways to counter the counter, and so on. This has always been the nature of warfare.

Mark
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Mark

Agreed. the_marquis is right if he is suggesting that the weapons and their platforms should not perhaps pick their own targets and decide whether to fire or not but almost all the current systems have some form of autonomy in them already I can’t see countries seeking to move backwards. I can certainly see countries wishing to limit the exposure of their personnel though.

the_marquis
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the_marquis

There’s also a big question over what is exactly the ethical standpoint. That is to say, we in the UK, and our NATO brethren, may feel that allowing robot warriors loose on the battlefield is repugnant to our western, liberal, democratic sensibilities. However, perhaps another nation state, or a non-state actor with access to sophisticated technology that may or may not have been supplied by a foreign power, does not share our moral qualms about using surrogate robot killers. How should we respond? An advanced fighter jet is limited to 9G due to the stresses placed on the human pilot’s… Read more »

spyintheskyuk
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spyintheskyuk

This is called a ‘Transition Ship (TX Ship)’ which I would say gives a pretty good indication of its purpose. For the foreseeable future it would I suspect use those 15 or so crew while over a 10 year period gain the necessary experience to either increasingly automate the design or form the basis for a truly autonomous follow up design. I suspect it will take that sort of heavy usage experience to fully explore the concept and this design seems to be a way of gaining it while making it far more useful and cost effective than a pure… Read more »

Mr Bell
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Mr Bell

Not a new concept, they have copied much of the dreadnought 2050 concept. Not impressed.

Mr John Miles
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Mr John Miles

Agree. I presented a smaller monohull concept to the Royal Navy in 2016. New vessel yes. New concept? Certainly not.

Cam
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Cam

I’m not sure how much a small cluster of stars that orbit each other and are bound by gravitational attraction (STELLAR SYSTEMS) would have helped Thales with this new warship concept, but you never know these days.

Brad
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Brad

Because this worked out so well for the US Navy LCS fleet. Massive cost over runs. Over promising and under delivering. Good luck.

john melling
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Really like the way Stellar Systems have been promoting themselves recently, T31 concept was pretty good as an alternative from the “big boy companies”
And now this joint effort for the Transition Ship (TX Ship) which has a lot of potential
We just need the pen pushers to wake up…

Lee1
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Lee1

Whatever happened to the research in Trimarans that we were doing. I know they built one which was then operated by the Australians for a while but that was a test ship to validate the concept. What were the findings and why were they seemingly ditched while the Americans then built a bunch of large scale ones? To me it seems that the trimaran is potentially a great design as it offers less drag for a larger deck surface, but I would like to know what shortcomings were found that lead to the cancellation of the idea for the RN.

spyintheskyuk
Guest
spyintheskyuk

Yes good question, I remember ‘designing’ Trimarans as a kid for naval vessels as it seemed rather more logical than the ‘fat frigates’ that Vosper were proposing way back. However as the Americans have had nothing but trouble with the Littoral Combat Ships (due to ongoing problems with weapon pallet-isation) they are less capable than our ‘under armed’ Frigates, break down regularly, have over worked crews and found to have no real purpose, so they are looking to replace them asap, then I doubt that the concept is likely to take off anytime soon over here. That said the trimaran… Read more »

Lee1
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Lee1

I would say the trimaran concept has nothing to do with their issues. In fact the hulls appear to be very speedy at 45kts (although I know they are light ships compared to most frigates). The one downside I know of for the design is that they can be harder to manoeuvre in narrow docks.

T.S
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I would expect to see more of these sorts of autonomous mothership designs to appear in the near future and definitely something we need to be looking at. 5-10 years and there will be an array of very capable autonomous vehicles in every domain. The question for me is, should we be looking at small to medium designs such as this, capable of carrying a few of each type and build in numbers. Or, do we build a couple of 20-30,000 tonne vessels that can launch multiple fixed wing and rotary drones, autonomous sea boats and small/medium and large Uuavs… Read more »

John Hampson
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John Hampson

There is an urgent need for radar pickets.

Grubbie
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Grubbie

More type 45?

the_marquis
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the_marquis

More T31s with Artisan and a decent VLS battery fitted and loaded with long range SAMs. These could also work in squadrons led by a T45 that could cue targets for the T31s to launch missiles against.

John Hampson
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John Hampson

Agreed. Just like the F-35 with Loyal wing men. AI about to make and impact. Is it a repeat of dive bombers and battleships. The future is dispersed assets not the Admiral Nikhimov’s.

Meirion X
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Meirion X

The Arrowhead T31 will Not be getting Artisan, it will most likely be getting Thales NS110 radar, then the newer NS200. NS200 is Much superior to Artisan I read.
I agree the Arrowhead T31 could be fitted with both Mk. 41 modules, and CAMM using ExLS(cold launched), units to save space. Cost of two 8 cell Mk. 41 silo would be $20m, the cost of 4 ExLS units of quad packed with 36 CAMM, would be less then the Mk. 41.

Mr John Miles
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Mr John Miles

My idea, presented to the Royal Navy 2016 as the Guardian Project.