The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is seeking potential supplier able to provide a next-generation submarine-based countermeasure capability to equip both current and future vessels in the fleet, and will shortlist up to three industry representatives that meet the pre-qualification standards.

In a 30 April 2024, contract opportunity notice, the UK MoD revealed that the £35m ($42.6m) programme would run from October 2025 through to October 2032. Industry selected would be issued with an Invitation to Participate in Dialogue (ITPD).

This system will be known as the Next Generation Countermeasure (NGCM) and fall under the wider Underwater Defensive Aids Suite (UDAS) delivery programme, the MoD said.

As part of the contract, suppliers would have to provide trials and testing, combat systems integration, equipment and technical support, an initial training needs analysis, and post design services as required.

Given the nature of the capability and the likely host platforms, such as the current Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) or the future AUKUS-SSN, industry wishing to participate are required to have security classification up to including ‘Secret UK Eyes Only’ level. As such, available information on the kind of capabilities offered and eventually selected will be minimal.

UK MoD also seeking containerised ASW solutions

Meanwhile, the UK MoD issued a Request for Information (RfI) on 30 April for the potential use of modular or containerised anti-submarine warfare (ASW) concepts, specifically regarding remote or autonomous ASW sensing capabilities, that could be hosted within a 20ft ISO container for deployment from a Common Medium sized Uncrewed Surface Vessel (MUSV) of around 40m length.

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The MoD stated that the Royal Navy is seeking to “understand acoustic ASW solutions that are ’frigate-like’ in capability parameters”, but that MUSV vessel intended to host the system “may not be acoustically quietened or clad”.

In addition, alternative non-acoustic sensing options were also of interest but would “need to represent a detection capability equal to current active/passive detection ranges” or would need to be hosted complimentary to an acoustic solution, the MoD said.

XV Patrick Blackett is an experimental ship used by the Royal Navy as a testbed for new technologies, including unmanned underwater vehicles, unmanned surface vehicles and quantum navigation. Credit: UK MoD/Crown copyright

The description of a 40m MUSV host platform indicates that any solution would be tested onboard the XV Patrick Blackett, the Royal Navy’s experimental warfare surface ship acquired in 2022. Built by Damen in the Netherlands, the XV Patrick Blackett was originally a commercial Fast Crew Supplier (FCS) 4008 craft modified for Royal Navy requirements.

The vessel has a length of 42 metres (m) and a gross tonnage of 270 tonnes (t), reaching a maximum speed of up to 20 knots. A crew of five personnel can be accommodated onboard.

The XV Patrick Blackett has a 140m² cargo deck space, with a load capacity of 2.5t per m² and is designed to accommodate containerised systems for UAVs or naval UAVs as required.