The UXV Combatant was designed by BVT Surface Fleet and displayed at the Defence Security and Equipment International event in 2007, would it have been a good investment?

Designed to “launch, operate and recover large numbers of small unmanned vehicles for extended periods, the UXV plays the role of mother ship – a permanent base and control centre for the futuristic unmanned land, sea and air vehicles before, during and on completion of their missions“.

The UXV Combatant featured two flight decks for launching unmanned aerial vehicles, V/STOL aircraft, and helicopters; arrayed in a “V” shape.

The UXV would have packed enough heat to give all these assets cover. On the foredeck, missile batteries could house both surface-to-air and ship-to-ship missiles and cruise missiles. A large-calibre gun that fires six-inch munitions, 20 rounds at a time, provides incredible power for ship-to-ship fighting and for strafing a variety of targets onshore.

When plans for the UXV hit the web in 2007, some commentators sniped that the ship was destined to be the warship of a robot uprising. But that’s unlikely. As with today’s “drones” (remotely piloted air systems), most of the aircraft on the UXV would be controlled by remote human operators.

According to a press release at the time:

“Each flight deck is approximately 164 feet (50 m) in length. To launch aircraft, UXV Combatant could be expected to use the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System or a ski-jump.

UXV Combatant is also reported to be capable of launching unmanned underwater vehicles via a “moon pool”, and in addition, able to embark a large number of troops plus their equipment.

For naval gunfire support, UXV Combatant is equipped with a 155 mm cannon, able to fire bursts of 20 rounds in rapid succession.”

Like most of us when presented with this vessel, defence commentators haven’t exactly warmed to the idea.


  1. Given the RN’s glacial pace of UAV development this would have been a total waste of money. Would have made the CVF no aircraft to fly debate look small in comparison, a new class of warship and nothing to fly of the deck except scan eagle.

    Naval UAV development is the essential part, the ships they fly off are a secondary issue.

    • Sad but very true Martin.

      While we give away multi billions of pounds in foreign aid yet fail to invest in in our armed forces and supporting industries.

      Criminal springs to mind!

      That being said, it appears to be an excellent platform on face value for RMC’s and Special Forces operations.

    • When I read last week a comment about the new carriers and a lack of local protection, would a dedicated escort ship carrying multiple CIWS & SAM to defend, then a flight deck to hold Apache for local defence & Merlin ASW and a dock to hold patrol boats for a shed load of royal marines, really be a bad idea , look at Yemen!

      The QE and PW are expensive bits of kit, 2-3 Aircraft Carrier Escorts (ACE’s) 2 on active service the other looking after the other carrier, could it work?

  2. The design reminds me more of a modern version of HMS Blake and Tiger, the converted WW2 era light cruisers.

    Both decommissioned in 1979, carrying 4x Sea Kings.
    It’s interesting that the newly elected Conservative government withdrew them partially to do something about the lack of manpower of the day. Both ships had a compliment of 800 plus! An incredible number by today’s standards….

  3. “UXV Combatant is equipped with a 155 mm cannon”

    Is that the one we tried but failed to produce an operational system of? When we consider our long tradition of naval shipbuilding pioneering cruisers, battleships & carriers, it seems pervrse indeed that we couldn’t come up with inexpensive catapaults for the QE CVAs when that was on the cards or re-invent the 6″ naval gun. What on earth has happened to us? We may as well spec phaser cannons & photon torpedoes if we just produce ships with “fitted for but not equipped with” weapons.
    Glad to hear the QE is finally getting its Phalanx CIWS. Now we need a SAM system to take ASMs down before they get into the range at which even if the missile may be hit by the CIWS, debris can still damage the ship & kill sailors.

    • There was never an option of fitting inexpensive catapults to the QECs. Steam catapults, oddly enough, need steam, which means the ship either has to be steam powered like the old Audacious-class, or nuclear powered like the Nimitz-class and Charles De Gaulle, and neither of those was ever an option.

      The only catapult option was EMALS, the stupidly expensive prototype system fitted to the Gerald R Ford which still isn’t expected to be in active service until 2022. Regardless of cost, to have fitted EMALS would’ve required the decision to be made very early on, as it would require significant structural changes. Honestly, I’d personally have pushed for conventional carriers from the start, with cheaper and more capable aircraft and more options for the future, BUT the added cost could very well have resulted in PoW being immediately mothballed or sold. It might be less capable than we would’ve wished, but we’re going to be the only European nation with full time carrier capability, and that’s worth it in the long run.

      As for the 6″ gun, we had a very promising design from BAE, but it was cut in the 2010 SDSR along with so many other promising programmes and platforms. Nothing to do with if we could make it work, everything to do with the recession and no money

  4. Wouldn’t this have worked better as a through-deck design? Imagine how many more helicopters (or whatever) could be operated with a full-length flight deck.


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