British defence planners are seeking to develop a new generation of unmanned sea drones with the capability of attacking submarines and launching missile attacks on enemy vessels, it has been reported.The Royal Navy is already using unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to help stop Iran laying mines in shipping lanes and also being considered for deployment for the pirate-infested waters off Somalia.
Documents obtained by a newspaper showed the Ministry of Defence wants to boost its unmanned warfare capabilities across the services, seen as a cheaper way of providing round-the-clock intelligence and surveillance.
A report published by the MoD’s defence, science and technology laboratory, sets out to defence manufacturers how it wants them to help develop technologies “to provide greater support to maritime operations such as mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare and missile defence”.
It says: “Innovation in maritime technology, including unmanned systems, will make it possible for UK armed forces to continue to use the sea with security and persistence.
“Unmanned systems are being considered as a potential option to aid in the delivery of a range of different maritime tasks given the range of potential threats and increasing demands on the smaller number of highly capable manned platforms in which much of the UK capability is currently focused.”
The paper sets out the tasks as anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-ship missile defence, counter-piracy operations and support to future submarine operations, and makes clear they could be used to attack potential enemies.
Drones on land, sea and air could “could be expected to perform a number of roles, including, but not limited to, remote sensing, communications relay, delivery of effects such as the deployment of weapons or countermeasures”, it says.
Lieutenant Commander Kevin Giles explains in the report that such vessels are wanted for “dirty, dangerous and repetitive” tasks, and to keep costs down, according to the Guardian.
A spokesman for the MoD said: “Exploring innovation in maritime defence is part of the work we do to exploit the latest technology and ensure the Royal Navy is best equipped to meet future requirements.
“We are considering options for how we can use unmanned systems to support the vast range of future naval capabilities that include Type 45 destroyers, global combat ships, Astute class submarines and the two Queen Elizabeth class carriers that together with Lightning II jets will provide world-leading carrier strike from 2020.”
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