Royal Navy Takes Delivery of Autonomous Vessel Testbed

royal navy
Image courtesy Royal Navy

Published Mar 26, 2021 5:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Royal Navy’s experimentation division NavyX has welcomed a new autonomous vessel into its service. Named Madfox, it is based on the L3Harris Mast-13 vessel, which has been operated by the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on a series of trials with the Royal Navy for the past 18 months.

Over the next few months, NavyX will carry on its work with Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV), while also examining how these vessels can be deployed across the range of military operations, including surveillance and force protection.

“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.  "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, particularly for mine countermeasures. Over the coming ten years, all of the service's mine warfare vessels are slated to be replaced with unmanned systems like the Atlas Elektronik ARCIMS minesweeping platform.

Mast-13 was successfully integrated with HMS Albion for a major exercise off Norway last year. For the maneuvers, the system was controlled remotely, including for the transit in and out of the ship’s dock.