The Royal Navy’s experimentation innovator NavyX has officially welcomed a new autonomous vessel into its service.
Named Madfox (Maritime Demonstrator For Operational eXperimentation), it is derived from technology firm L3Harris’ Mast-13 vessel, which for the past 18 months has been operated by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on a series of trials with the Royal Navy.
Since being delivered, NavyX has been working hard to get Madfox to sea and ready to begin a demanding year of testing.
Over the next few months, NavyX will carry on its work with Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV), while also examining how these vessels can deliver across the range of military operations including surveillance and force protection.
Commander Antony Crabb, NavyX team leader, said: «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. Later this year NavyX will also accept an autonomous Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) into the inventory. This exciting work will help inform how systems are deployed, and employed, from future vessels of the Type 26 and Type 31 classes».
The investment in Madfox comes as the Royal Navy and Royal Marines look to expand their use of crewless and autonomous equipment.
Mast-13, proved the value of USVs during experimentation in Norway last year when it was successfully integrated with HMS Albion (L14) for Autonomous Advance Force 3.0. There it was controlled remotely, including for the transit in and out of the ship’s dock.
Northrop Grumman Corporation’s µSAS (pronounced «micro-sas») will be integrated onto L3Harris Technologies’ Iver4 Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) for a 12-month test period for the Defense Innovation Unit’s (DIU) Next Generation Small-Class UUV program.
The µSAS is a Low-SWaP (Size, Weight and Power), high-performance interferometric synthetic aperture sonar that enables longer sorties and higher area coverage rates for UUV missions. Integrated onto a 9-inch/22.86-centimeter diameter, 99-inch/250.46-centimeter long, 200-pound/90.7-kilogram UUV, the installation will occur at L3Harris’ Fall River, Massachusetts facility and the system will be tested in San Diego, California by the U.S. Navy. The integration of synthetic aperture sonar on a small diameter UUV is a significant step forward in small class vehicle capability.
«The Northrop Grumman µSAS advanced imaging sonar is a minehunting force multiplier designed specifically for UUVs», said Alan Lytle, vice president, undersea systems, Northrop Grumman. «This integration will help to deliver a significant increase in the platform’s ability to detect objects on the seafloor and in the water column».
«The Iver4, integrated with µSAS, is a major advancement in small-class UUV capability for the warfighter», said Daryl Slocum, president and general manager, unmanned maritime systems, L3Harris.
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