The UK Royal Navy has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) to develop a framework to enable unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to be deployed from anti-submarine warfare warships.
Under the terms of the agreement, the Royal Navy and NOC will work together and share ideas to develop a new working strategy.
NOC National Marine Facilities director Geraint West said that the NOC will apply its capabilities and considerable experience in marine autonomous systems.
"The Natural Environment Research Council has already invested considerable funding into this area over recent years, principally through the science minister's 'eight great technologies' initiative, and working with the Royal Navy, therefore makes good sense for the UK taxpayer," West said.
"The memorandum of understanding is a significant step in the relationship between the NOC and the Royal Navy that takes us into a new phase of mutual cooperation, enabling the two parties to work together in sharing ideas and developing a working strategy."
Although the Royal Navy does not have a mature UUV capability, its collaboration with the NOC will provide the basis for trialling and understanding how the UUVs can be best used.
Navy Command Headquarters commodore Guy Robinson said: "This is an exciting opportunity as we develop this new area of our capability."
Currently, plans are underway for the launch of two UUVs from the navy's warships; one from a survey ship in the south-west Approaches near Plymouth and the other from a minehunter in the Mediterranean.
The Royal Navy environmental information officer Nick Hammond said that the idea is to have the UUVs deployed on board the navy's anti-submarine warfare platforms.
"We chose the survey ship and minehunter because they both work with similar equipment," Hammond said. "The information that the UUVs provide would be essential to their operation and the aspiration from these trials is to demonstrate that UUVs would make a difference to anti-submarine warfare."
Image: A Royal Navy's tied BAS glider in the Antarctic. Photo: courtesy of the Royal Navy.