First Sea Lord tells conference underwater warfare is top of agenda

The Royal Navy has awarded a contract for a large autonomous underwater vehicle, First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin revealed at the Underwater Defence and Security Conference.

Plymouth-based MSubs Ltd are to provide the senior service with a 30-metre underwater vehicle, which has a range of up to 3,000 nautical miles.

Acquired through the Defence and Securities Accelerator - the collaboration between the MOD, industry and academia to quicken procurement and develop new tech - the XLUUV (Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicle), also known as Manta has been designed and built in just 14 months.

“I am really excited by the possibilities that this offers to increase our reach and lethality, improve our efficiency and reduce the number of people we have to put in harm’s way,” said Adm Radakin.

He went on to tell the Southampton conference that the underwater environment had always been defence’s biggest problem.

“For my entire career we have been talking about oceans becoming transparent,” said Adm Radakin. “And yet they remain opaque. We continually horizon scan, analyse new developments, look at the capabilities that we and our adversaries possess – and there is nothing.

“On the land, in the air, increasingly even at sea, there is nowhere left to hide.  But underwater remains impenetrable.

“This is good for us. The Royal Navy has the huge responsibility of delivering the nuclear deterrent on behalf of the nation, and still the cheapest, most secure and most effective means of doing this is by submarine.

“Last year, we celebrated 50 years of continuous at sea deterrence. That is a remarkable achievement.  And I am delighted that this will continue, with the Dreadnought replacement for the Vanguard-class submarines already under construction. 

“In 2019 we saw the highest Russian activity in the North Atlantic for over 30 years. Submarines are getting quieter, more capable and harder to detect.”

Adm Radakin said he was happy with the future of the Royal Navy.

“We are growing for the first time in 70 years. And between 2015 and 2025 our tonnage will increase by nearly 30 per cent.

“The world is changing at a startling rate, and technology and innovation are moving faster than they ever have before. 

“We need to remain ahead of our adversaries. This is why the Royal Navy is currently undergoing a period of transformation.

“We are focusing on five main areas: increasing our operational advantage in the North Atlantic; becoming a Carrier Strike Navy; increasing our Forward Presence; modernising our Royal Marines into a Future Commando Force; and embracing Technology and Innovation in a much better way.  And you will recognise that two of these - the North Atlantic, and Technology and Innovation – are closely linked with the underwater domain.”

Adm Radakin also spoke about defence’s investment in new equipment, including the Dreadnought-class submarines, the Type 26 and 31 frigates, the P8 Poseidon aircraft, upgrades to infrastructure, including a new submarine training school.

“There is a great deal going on here. But I am confident that we are heading in the right direction, pursuing modern solutions, modern ways of working, delivering solutions to traditional problems in a modern way. And we will continue to evolve, both nationally and in company with our allies,” he added.

First Sea Lord Admiral Tony Radakin

The world is changing at a startling rate, and technology and innovation are moving faster than they ever have before.