Thales unveils autonomous vessel concept for naval operations

11 September 2019 (Last Updated September 11th, 2019 10:57)

Thales and its partner Steller Systems have unveiled a new concept to support the transition of navies to fully autonomous operations.

Thales unveils autonomous vessel concept for naval operations
TX Ship is intended to support the transition of navies from manned warships, through lean-manning, to a fully autonomous platform. Credit: Steller Systems.

Thales and its partner Steller Systems have unveiled a new concept to support the transition of navies to fully autonomous operations.

The Transition Ship (TX Ship) concept was introduced at the ongoing DSEI 2019 defence and security exhibition in London.

The TX Ship can be operated as an unmanned platform or as a lean-manned vessel and can accommodate a crew of 15.

As per the preliminary design details outlined by Thales, the concept vessel would be available in autonomous or remotely controlled modes.

The platform is a 70m trimaran with an expected range of up to 6,000 miles. The vessel will also feature a heavy-lift flight deck and payload mission bay.

The trimaran hull is intended to allow the flight deck to accommodate heavy lift helicopters, such as the British Royal Navy’s Merlin Mk2 airborne anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter.

Thales developed the TX Ship under a collaborative effort with Naval Architects Stellar Systems. Through the platform, the company aims to provide a cost-effective solution for naval forces.

The TX Ship’s mission bay could carry specialist equipment to support a range of missions, including mine countermeasures operations, ASW and patrol, and Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) operations.

Steller and Thales are looking to exploit the market for unmanned surface vessels to provide mass and lethality for navies.

Thales UK Mine Warfare Product Line Manager and maritime autonomy lead Matt Hunt said: “This is a thought leadership concept design for navies to talk about and understand.

“There’s a requirement from countries for a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel to give navies both mass and lethality that larger, more expensive but isolated platforms can’t give you.

“However, it’s not just a pretty-looking boat. It’s got credible engineering and rigour behind it from our partners Stellar Systems who have a reputation as disruptive thought leaders.”

TX Ship is designed to provide close support and can operate independently, as well as part of a task group.

With a displacement of 600t, the TX Ship can achieve a maximum speed of 30k. The unmanned variant can operate continuously for 40 days.

The immediate focus of the partners is to launch a prototype into the water.