Pushing the boundaries of innovation: UK unveils new experimental warship

The Royal Navy has unveiled a new testbed ship to support trials of the latest tech and autonomous systems.

NavyX, the Royal Navy’s innovation, autonomy and lethality accelerator which has been established to rapidly develop, test and trial new equipment, ran an open tender process which resulted in an order being placed with Damen Shipyards in the Netherlands earlier this year for the delivery of a fast crew supplier (FCS) 4008.

warship
Photo: Damen Shipyards

In a ceremony held at Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth on 29 July, the Royal Navy’s NavyX innovation team took delivery of the FCS.

Named XV Patrick Blackett after a distinguished naval officer and scientist, the 42-metre, high-speed vessel will be able to accommodate a crew of five sailors.

XV Patrick Blackett enters Portsmouth; Photo: Royal Navy

The vessel will be used as a platform for the assessment of a wide variety of equipment. Its 140 square meters of deck space provides a large, unobstructed area for UAVs, AUVs and other technology.

The extensive internal area that would normally have seating for up to 100 personnel is being converted into an operations centre and a meeting room, according to Damen. Four caterpillar engines will give it a top speed of more than 20 knots.

XV Patrick Blackett enters Portsmouth; Photo: Royal Navy

Damen is also providing a comprehensive, three-year support package that will centre on the Service Hub that Damen set up recently in Portsmouth.

Its introduction into the fleet is expected to enable NavyX to experiment without the need to place demands on Royal Navy warships.

Furthermore, in the future, the FCS will take part in Royal Navy and NATO exercises as well as increase opportunities to work more closely with industry and academia.

“This is the first Damen vessel to be directly supplied to the Royal Navy,” said Frederik van der Linde, Damen’s sales manager for the UK and Ireland.

“As a high-tech, innovative vessel, the FCS 4008 will fit in very well with NavyX’s mission to push at the boundaries of what is possible using the very latest equipment. We will also be supporting the team of NaxyX intensively via our service hub in Portsmouth where our R&D department will support certain experiments.

Colonel Tom Ryall, Head of NavyX, added: “The arrival of this vessel is a pivotal moment for NavyX’s ability to deliver output for the Royal Navy.”

“She will give us greater flexibility to experiment with novel military capabilities, and accelerate new technology, kit and concepts to the frontline.” 

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Photo: Royal Navy