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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

UK Navy Experimenting with New Autonomous Vessel

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

March 29, 2021

(Photo: LPhot Bradley / Royal Navy)

(Photo: LPhot Bradley / Royal Navy)

The British Royal Navy has taken delivery of a new autonomous vessel as the service examines the use of cutting-edge unmanned craft across a range of military operations including surveillance and force protection. 

The new vessel, named Madfox (short for maritime demonstrator for operational experimentation), was officially handed over to the Navy's experimentation innovator NavyX, who is working toward preparing the uncrewed surface vessel (USV) for a demanding year of testing at sea.

"With Madfox now directly in the hands of NavyX, the team will be able to explore a multitude of issues such as safety, regulatory compliance, new missions, new payloads and the role that a USV can play in complex operations and within the future fleet," said Commander Antony Crabb, NavyX team leader.

The vessel is derived from technology firm L3Harris’ Mast-13 vessel, which for the past 18 months has been operated by Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on a series of trials with the Royal Navy. 

The Royal Navy said Mast-13 proved the value of USVs during experimentation in Norway last year when it was integrated with HMS Albion for Autonomous Advance Force 3.0. There it was controlled remotely, including for the transit in and out of the ship’s dock.

The investment in Madfox comes as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines look to expand their use of crewless and autonomous equipment.

"Later this year NavyX will also accept an autonomous rigid inflatable boat (RIB) into the inventory," Crabb said. "This exciting work will help inform how systems are deployed, and employed, from future vessels of the Type 26 and Type 31 classes."

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