Sea Platforms

P950 unmanned testbed set for weapon firings

24 July 2019

The P950 demonstrator undertook rehearsals for live-firing serials off the south coast of England in mid-July. Source: Richard Scott/NAVYPIX

BAE Systems is preparing to conduct the first live weapon firings from its P950 unmanned surface vessel technology (USV) demonstrator.

Remote testing of the MSI-Defence Systems Seahawk Multi Weapon Station (MWS) fitted to the P950 is scheduled to take place from 12-16 August on the UK Ministry of Defence's West Freugh range on the southwest coast of Scotland.

Developed by BAE Systems' Maritime Services business at Portsmouth using corporate funds, the demonstrator project is using an existing P950 9.5 m rigid inflatable boat (RIB) as an unmanned testbed to prove technologies and techniques applicable to an autonomous version of its 7.5 m Pacific 24 Mk 4 RIB. The manned version of the Pacific 24 Mk 4 is already deployed fleetwide with the UK Royal Navy (RN) as a sea boat.

The unmanned P950 was originally developed to participate in the 'Unmanned Warrior 2016' ('UW16') experiment. Following feedback from 'UW16', BAE Systems took the decision in 2017 to commit GBP4.5 million (USD5.6 million) of internal investment over a three-year period to further explore autonomous technologies and concepts of operation.

Trials undertaken to date have demonstrated the ability of the unmanned P950 to undertake complex, multiphase missions and support advanced dynamic tasking. The programme is being undertaken in conjunction with L3Harris ASV (providing COLREGS-compliant autonomous navigation software) and MSI-Defence Systems (providing its Seahawk MWS remote weapon station configured with a Browning M2HB 0.50 cal heavy machine gun).

"We listened to the customer community to understand what specific issues or areas needed a greater understanding," Mike Woods, chief technologist for BAE Systems Maritime Services, told Jane's . "That included increased levels of autonomy, cyber security, time on station, and levels of manning. We spent nine months developing a strategy to address some of these issues."

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