U.K. Funds Development of Extra-Large Autonomous Submarine

Credit: MSubs
Credit: MSubs

Published Mar 14, 2020 10:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

An extra-large autonomous submarine will be developed for the Royal Navy to test.

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has awarded an initial £1-million contract to Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd to build a test submarine that will be used to explore the potential capabilities of larger uncrewed underwater vehicles in the future.

Measuring about 30 feet in length, the extra-large autonomous submarine will be significantly larger than autonomous submarines used for beach reconnaissance, allowing it to operate at a range of 3,000 nautical miles.

The Ministry of Defence wants to increase its presence in the underwater battlespace and is exploring the use of extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles for surveillance, reconnaissance, and anti-submarine warfare operations. The submarines would be adept at covert intelligence gathering. They can leave their dock autonomously and secretly move to the operational area without any embarked crew, operating for up to three months. They are also able to sense hostile targets and report their findings back to the station, making them an important barrier for anti-submarine warfare.

The first phase of DASA’s Developing the Royal Navy’s Autonomous Underwater Capability program, run jointly with the Royal Navy and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, will see an existing crewed submersible refitted with autonomous control systems. If initial testing is successful, up to a further £1.5-million is available to further test the new capability making it the largest joint contract awarded as part of a DASA competition.