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Royal Navy experimental trials ship starts sea acceptance tests

XV Patrick Blackett sails from Portsmouth to start sea acceptance tests on 20 February. (Royal Navy/Crown Copyright)

The UK Royal Navy's (RN's) new experimental trials and evaluation vessel, XV Patrick Blackett, has departed Portsmouth to start sea acceptance tests (SATs).

Patrick Blackett is a Damen Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) 4008 fast attack crew support vessel that was purchased off-the-shelf in early 2022 and converted into a dedicated testbed platform that will be used by the RN's NavyX innovation unit to independently test and trial novel technologies.

The vessel was built at Damen Shipyards Gorinchem in the Netherlands, and after completing its role-modification post-build, arrived at Portsmouth Naval Base in July 2022. Since then, the NavyX team have been working to transfer the classification and reflag the vessel to the UK Defence Shipping Register, an RN spokesperson told Janes . Simultaneously, the ship's company have been working to ensure that the service's standard operating procedures (SOP's) are deliverable and coherent in a lean-crewed civilian ship.

The SATs, which will ensure that the vessel and equipment onboard are fully functioning and ready to support innovative experimentation, are expected to conclude before the end of February.

Once in service, the ship will start a programme of test and trials operations that include autonomous exercises with NATO allies. The ship's company also operate NavyX's Maritime Demonstrator For Operational eXperimentation (MADFOX) and Autonomous Pacific 24 unmanned surface vessels. Therefore, Patrick Blackett's experimentation programme will – in parallel with small boat autonomy experiments – work up towards NATO's ‘Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping using Maritime Unmanned Systems' (‘REP(MUS)') exercise off Portugal in September, the RN spokesperson said.

Displacing around 270 tonnes, with an overall length of 41.2 m,

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