DSEI 2015

A glimpse into the future of warships [DSEI15, D4]

18 September 2015

A futuristic concept for a radical surface warship with an advanced low-manned operations room is being showcased on the Startpoint stand (S10-280) in DSEI’s Naval Zone.

Startpoint is a collective brand that has been created to capture the UK’s evolving approach to maritime mission systems (MMS) procurement, encompassing the structures, processes, people and policies that exist to deliver equipment and support to the Royal Navy (RN).

Mission systems are the brains of modern warships, integrating sensors, weapons and decision-making tools, and they represent the largest component of a ship by value.

Recognising the increasing complexity of maritime mission systems, government and industry in the UK have joined forces to pursue an ‘enterprise’ approach that promotes greater collaboration across the supply chain, and so best exploits decades of operational and practical experience.

Startpoint is symbolic of this new way of working across the Ministry of Defence and industry, but also reflects the RN’s continued need for mission systems that are ready to meet the challenge of tomorrow’s operations. To highlight these themes, and help promote the MMS enterprise as a career choice for young engineering talent, Startpoint has sponsored an ‘imagineering’ exercise that would seek to identify innovations and technologies shaping the surface warship of 2050, and conceptualise a future low-manned operations room as the ‘nerve centre’ of the mission system. The resulting warship concept − given the name Dreadnought 2050 − and its futuristic operations room are being displayed here at the show.

Concepts were developed by a team of young science and engineering graduates drawn from industry and the MoD. They were asked to visualise what an operations room would look like and how the actual ship itself might appear.

The operations room concept taken forward has been developed around a 3D holographic command table and communications hubs to give the crew greatly improved situational awareness. The command table could be rotated and zoomed, to allow commanders to focus on specific aspects of the battlefield, be it in the air, on the surface, both at sea and on land, or underwater. Additional, smaller holographic pods would allow the crew to manage those specific environments in greater detail. An operation could be commanded from within visual range to thousands of miles away from the ship; all managed by five or six people.

Commenting on Startpoint’s Dreadnought 2050 initiative, Commander Steve Prest, the RN’s Fleet Robotics Officer, said: ‘‘In 2013, the Royal Navy challenged the defence industry to innovate, and to generate new opportunities to give it an operational edge.

‘‘We therefore welcome a project that allows some of Britain’s best and brightest young engineers to come up with ideas on what a warship might look like or be equipped with in 2050. We want to attract the best new talent to sea to operate, maintain and develop systems with this level of ambition.’’

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