Royal Navy frigate facilitates autonomous systems trials

Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll has lent its capabilities to a BAE Systems team trying out their unmanned Pacific 24 sea boat in trials at London’s Docklands.

The trials are part of the Royal Navy’s NavyX autonomous hardware accelerator program and will take place over the course of this week.

Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll used its combat system to test the capability of the Pacific 24 boat to integrate with an active warship.

During the trials, technologists from BAE and the Royal Navy, along with Defence and Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and autonomous systems suppliers L3Harris, demonstrated how the autonomous version of a PAC24 boat could make naval missions more sustainable, more effective and safer.

Commander Sean Trevethan, Programme Director for NavyX, said: “This is much more than an autonomous surface vessel demonstration for the Royal Navy. What we are doing is the first step of exploiting system architecture in a complex warship to integrate an unmanned system into the ship.

“This ensures the system and its payload fully contribute to the warfighting capability of the ship.

The version of the autonomous PAC24 boat trialed this week at the Defence & Security Equipment International conference had been modified for optional unmanned operations and fitted with additional sensors. At 7.8m long, the vessel has a speed of 38 knots and can be either remotely controlled or used in an autonomous mode.

In addition to the PAC24 trial, Plymouth-based HMS Argyll hosted Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who unveiled the next-generation unmanned system – the Maritime Autonomy Surface Testbed (MAST). Developed by Dstl, MAST was involved in demonstrations with Argyll and the PAC24 boat.