Royal Navy launches missile from autonomous vessel in NATO exercise

The Royal Navy has launched a missile from its autonomous boat Madfox during NATO’s biggest autonomous war drills.

Royal Navy

During its first overseas deployment, the boat was tasked with its biggest test to date – being part of a surveillance training operation ending in a missile launch. For the trial, a Puma drone launched by USNS Carson City relayed information to a land-based control centre of a possible target – in this case, a simulated target of a Spanish crewless boat. Once received, that information was sent to the Royal Navy’s Madfox vessel, which has been undergoing trials all year.

Photo by: Royal Navy

“The system launch from MADFOX was a UK first, demonstrating the potential of uncrewed surface vessels for lethal and other payloads; crucially, the whole serial was commanded, enabled and facilitated using information provided by uncrewed systems. It is a significant step for UK/US interoperability and interchangeability,” Commander Antony Crabb, NavyX Experimentation Team Leader, said.

The navy’s innovation experts NavyX deployed to Portugal with unmanned technology for the annual experimentation exercise. The two-week exercise aimed to test the integration of NATO systems and explore existing and new military roles for autonomy. 

Photo by: Portuguese Navy

Later in the exercise, Royal Navy’s technology supported night-time amphibious operations. It saw Madfox observe a ‘target’, undetected, and provide live imagery using its onboard cameras. 
As Portuguese Marines stormed ashore, aerial drones provided further surveillance, sending imagery to tablets within the assault forces. Personnel in the Maritime Operations Centre were able to make an assessment of the target defences and enemy strength before ordering an attack.
The exercise was designed to show how dismounted Command and Control systems could extend situational awareness provided by uncrewed systems to small distributed teams. The tablets also enabled the Marines to request missions from the uncrewed systems connected to the UK MAPLE mission planning system.

More than 900 personnel, 70 autonomous uncrewed systems and 11 navy vessels took part in REPMUS.