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April 6, 2021updated 16 Apr 2021 1:33pm

Royal Navy details ‘Atlantis’ hybrid underwater capability

A Royal Navy Maritime Enterprise Planning Group presentation seen online by Naval Technology and now withdrawn showed a concept named ‘Atlantis’ for a ‘Hybrid Underwater Capability’ using a semi-autonomous mothership submarine operating in tandem with ‘remote, autonomous and uncrewed platforms’.

By Harry Lye

The presentation, dated December 2020, details challenges in the ‘Under Water Battlespace’, what the Royal Navy plans to deliver in the domain by 2030 and the Atlantis 2040 concept.

Describing Atlantis 2040, a slide from the presentation reads: “Our vision for the underwater domain is ambitious, we must leverage cutting edge technologies from industry, academia and the RN [Royal Navy ] innovation ecosystem, through operational experimentation, deployed alongside our conventional RN platforms to accelerate and de-risk future capabilities.”

In the concept for 2040, a semi-autonomous mothership submarine is shown as being capable of deploying uncrewed underwater vessels (UUVs) to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

Autonomous vehicles are shown providing remote sensing, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) barrier and area denial capabilities, and an extra-large UUV or XLUUV is shown as providing long-range underwater operations.

The mothership submarine is detailed as being capable of launching next-generation light and heavyweight torpedoes. An autonomous minehunting capability is also shown.

Underwater gliders are shown conducting environmental analysis which can be fed back to other underwater assets.

Low earth orbit satellites are shown as providing a data relay between underwater and surface assets to create a ‘networked battlespace’.

On the surface, the slide includes a Type 26 or replacement vessel with a towed sonar array, a cross-government environmental research ship, and a Multi-Role Ocean Surveillance Ship.

A fleet of small uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) is shown as working in concert to deploy a sonobuoy field to detect adversaries submarines. An underwater launches aerial drone swarm is also included on the slide.

The mothership submarine is also shown launching a ‘Next Generation underwater launched Precision Strike Missile’.

Another slide reads: “Atlantis is our vision for a hybrid underwater capability in 2040. Centred on a semi-autonomous next-generation submarine, operating in concert with remote, autonomous and uncrewed platforms, in a networked and digitised battlespace, delivering effect above and below the surface.”

The slides detail a more ‘sustainable, efficient and cost-effective procurement’ process that would see a continuous submarine shipbuilding pipeline established to deliver more vessels at a lower cost.

The slide also says the Royal Navy ‘must’ invest and deliver autonomous and uncrewed capabilities and ‘embrace’ artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Atlantis 2040 from the Royal Navy presentation.

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