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UK Royal Navy Orders Crewless Submarine from MSubs

Maritime Activity Reports, Inc.

December 2, 2022

©UK Government

©UK Government

The UK Royal Navy has awarded a £15.4 million (currently around $18,8 million) contract for a crewless submarine to the Plymouth-based company MSubs. 

The submarine is expected to be delivered to the Navy in two years. The Navy expects the submarine to further advance the UK’s ability to protect our critical national infrastructure and monitor sub-sea activity.

"Project Cetus – named after a mythological sea monster – enhances the Royal Navy’s experimentation with autonomous underwater systems. It is the first step in developing an operational autonomous submarine that will work side-by-side with crewed submarines – including the Astute-class hunter-killers and their successors – or independently," the UK Government said in a statement.

The crewless submarine will have a maximum operational depth exceeding that of the current submarine fleet, and it will be able to cover up to 1,000 miles in a single mission. 

The range might be extended further as the unarmed vessel is battery-powered, meaning its effective range can be increased by installing additional batteries.

Cetus will be 12 meters long – or, as the UK government puts it in its press release - the length of a double-decker bus. It will have 2.2 meters in diameter and weigh 17 tonnes. 

It will be the largest and most complex crewless submersible operated by a European navy, the Royal Navy said.

The vessel’s size means that it will fit inside a shipping container and can thus able to be transported around the world to wherever it is needed. It will be designed to operate with all of the ships from the Royal Navy fleet as well as those of its allies.

As already mentioned, the bespoke vessel is being designed and built for the Royal Navy by Plymouth-based tech firm MSubs. This contract will create ten and support 70 specialist jobs in the city.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: "In order to meet the growing threats to our underwater infrastructure, the Royal Navy needs to be ahead of the competition with cutting-edge capabilities. Project Cetus, alongside bringing forward the MROS ships, will help ensure we have the right equipment to protect the security of the UK and our Allies."

The submarine has been designed to be modular, with an optional section that can be added to double the capacity of the vessel.

The contract is funded by the Anti-Submarine Warfare Spearhead program, run by the Royal Navy’s Develop Directorate, headquartered in Portsmouth. The vessel will be delivered through the Submarine Delivery Agency in Bristol and is the latest in a series of novel underwater technologies being brought to life to deal with the threats of the next decade, the Navy said.


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