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Royal Navy Spends Big on AI-Driven Predictive Maintenance

HMS Vanguard at Faslane (Royal Navy)
HMS Vanguard at Faslane (Royal Navy)

Published Feb 5, 2024 3:11 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy has signed a 15-year, $2.3 billion contract with defense contractor Thales to provide AI-driven maintenance for Thales-built systems in its fleet. It is one of the largest investments in "big data" predictive maintenance yet announced, and a major endorsement of the concept. 

The contract will sustain and expand a major enterprise employing more than 450 people across the UK. Its ambitious objective is to reduce turnaround times for shipboard repairs by an average of 100 days, cut spare part lead times by 44 days and improve reliability by 10 percent. The key, according to Thales, lies in data-driven decisionmaking and a proactive maintenance regime. 

Beyond software solutions, the contract will also underwrite "new dockland facilities" for physical maintenance activity. This includes investments at base facilities in Devonport, Faslane, Portsmouth and Bahrain, which will be used to provide Thales' repair support to the Royal Navy at the pier. 

"This will be the third generation of Thales apprentices, engineers and support staff helping to keep the Royal Navy at sea in an increasingly unstable world," said Alex Cresswell, Chairman and CEO of Thales in the UK. 

The contract will support equipment aboard the Type 23 and Type 45 surface combatants, the Sandown and Hunt MCM vessels, and the service's submarine fleet. It will extend to the unmanned mine countermeasures program, the Type 26, the Type 31, and the new Dreadnought subs as these platforms come online. The high-tech equipment covered includes sonar systems, periscopes, sub masts and electronic warfare equipment, almost all of it originally built by Thales.