A specialist ship from which drones can be launched to find and destroy undersea threats will soon join the Royal Navy’s fleet.
The vessel, currently named MV Island Crown, is now at HMNB Devonport, Plymouth, the largest naval base in Western Europe, where it will undergo conversion work before being re-launched in its new capacity.
When deployed, the ship will support the safeguarding of UK waters from the threat of mines at sea, reports Plymouth Live, operating a range of uncrewed systems that will help keep personnel at a safe distance.
Based at His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, the 96.8 meters long vessel – the length of two Olympic swimming pools – will work side-by-side with autonomous mine-hunting systems already operated by the Royal Navy out of Faslane.
Purchased from Island Offshore, the vessel – which will be renamed as it joins the fleet – is undergoing what the Royal Navy has described as “minimal conversion work”, primarily to support installation of military communication systems and Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) operations, before being handed over to the RFA later this year.
Defense Procurement Minister, Alex Chalk KC, said: “This is another significant step forward in the modernization of Royal Navy capabilities and use of autonomous systems to complement our crewed fleet. This vessel will play a crucial role in the detection of undersea threats, keeping our personnel out of harm’s way while they conduct vital operations.”
The navy says the ship will ensure freedom of access for the UK ships and submarines, including the Continuous At Sea Deterrent, while reducing risk to personnel.
Operated by specialist teams on board, the drone systems will allow the Royal Navy to protect UK waters, also providing support to the North Atlantic and European waters if required.
Commodore Steve Prest, Director Navy Acquisition, said: “The delivery of this ship is an important step in the Navy’s transformation to conducting mine countermeasures using distributed offboard systems-of-systems. The ship will be used to extend the range of our Maritime Autonomous Systems from coastal waters to conducting offshore survey operations in Defense of the homeland.”
The ship is intended to enter service in Spring 2023.