Military Review

Draft shipboard from Rolls-Royce

New unmanned and unmanned systems of various classes and types appear regularly to target various combat and support tasks. In particular, work is underway to create crew without ships and ships suitable for operation by naval forces. One of the latest projects of this kind was proposed by the British company Rolls-Royce. According to the latest newssuch a proposal can be implemented in practice.

In the recent past, Rolls-Royce has repeatedly mentioned its intentions to join work on promising unmanned systems of one or another class. A few years ago, the first surveys in the field of marine drones were launched. Specialists of the British company studied the needs of the market and the potential of technologies, after which they formed the appearance of the original multi-purpose crewless ship / ship suitable for military use fleets different countries.

Draft shipboard from Rolls-Royce
Unmanned ship-platform Rolls-Royce in the proposed form

In September, 2017, the Rolls-Royce Marine Division, issued a press release on its new development in the field of unmanned systems. The company's specialists have worked out a preliminary proposal concerning the creation of a whole family of crewless vessels for various purposes. Depending on the needs of the customer, such vessels could carry a variety of cargo or receive special equipment or weapons to solve combat missions. Dimensions, displacement, mass and composition of the payload and other parameters of a particular sample could be determined in accordance with the requirements of the market and the wishes of the customer.

As part of a major preliminary project, the appearance of a promising unmanned ship that could be offered to the navy of various countries was worked out. The main advantages of such a ship were high autonomy, long cruising range and the ability to fully solve the task. The project proposed a modular vessel architecture, thanks to which ships of various purposes could be built on the basis of a common platform.

So far, Rolls-Royce does not offer a full-fledged multi-purpose platform project, but only its concept. Moreover, it still does not even have its own name and is designated as the Autonomous vessel (“Autonomous vessel”). In the future, in case of interest from potential buyers or even receiving an order, the company could start creating a full-fledged project with the subsequent construction of experimental equipment and preparation for mass production. During the first few months, the concept project retained this status, but now the situation has changed. In the foreseeable future, a new agreement may appear, in accordance with which the proposed ideas will be implemented as a set of full-fledged design documentation.

As follows from the published information, so far the nameless project Rolls-Royce proposes the construction of an offshore platform in the form of a ship of 60 length and displacement of the order of 700 tons. Such a ship in its basic configuration will have to have a traditional hull with a high tank, complemented by a U-shaped bridge. platform for some electronic systems. A significant part of the internal volumes of the hull, as well as a flat rectangular deck, are designed for mounting special equipment or weapons. In the published drawings, the vessel does not have any target systems and is depicted in the basic configuration of the offshore platform.

For the purpose of a certain simplification of operation and maintenance, it is proposed to use a power plant with diesel and electric engines in the new concept. The basis of such an installation will be a pair of Rolls-Royce MTU 4000 diesel engines connected to generators. The latter will produce the order of 4 MW of electricity required for delivery to the propulsion engines and all on-board equipment. Movement will be provided by a combined installation with an 1,5 MW electric motor. It is proposed to use a Rolls-Royce Azipull type propeller steering column and bow thruster.

Also, a new concept project offers the use of other power plant options. In particular, to reduce fuel consumption, instead of diesel engines, gas turbine engines with the required characteristics can be used. Another means of improving efficiency should be the hull design, which provides the least water resistance. The tank, superstructure or other elements of the body can be equipped with solar panels. The latter are proposed to be used as a kind of auxiliary power plant, providing power supply to the on-board systems without switching on the main generators. The composition of the main electrical systems can be included batteries, with which the ship can store the generated, but not used at the moment energy.

A press release from Rolls-Royce noted that the absence of the crew imposes certain restrictions. The impossibility of continuous monitoring and maintenance by mechanics places high demands on the reliability of mechanisms. To avoid damage during autonomous navigation, it is proposed to use systems with an adequate safety margin. Follow the work of the power plant should be the most modern intelligent systems. The company’s product catalog already contains automated systems capable of solving such problems and replacing the crew.

The calculations of specialists have shown that an unmanned warship with the proposed power plant will be able to reach speeds up to 25 nodes. The maximum cruising range at economic speed will be 3500 nautical miles. The vehicle's autonomy for fuel will exceed 100 days. After returning to port, refueling and some maintenance, the ship will be able to return to the area of ​​the combat mission.

Also, automation will have to take on all the functions in the field of driving, including tracking security. So, for safe navigation, a crewless ship can use the Intelligent Awareness System complex developed by Rolls-Royce. It automatically collects data from various means of observation and sensors, analyzes it and takes measures to prevent collisions or other incidents. Such complexes can be used both on automatic warships and unmanned commercial ships.

If necessary, crewless ship can be a carrier of unmanned aerial vehicles.

A ship without a crew will have several special features. First of all, the solution of combat missions will not be associated with risks for people. Operators of all onboard systems will be at a safe distance from the ship and will be able to work in the most comfortable conditions. Waiver of the crew also allows you to remove from the hull and superstructure all residential, household and business premises, leaving only the volume for the target equipment, weapons, etc. With equal opportunities, this gives the most serious gain in size and weight of the structure in comparison with "ordinary" ships.

The proposed small warship with a displacement of 700 t is proposed to be completed with a reduced set of equipment. Due to the limited space in the hull and low superstructure, as well as due to the not very large carrying capacity, the ship from Rolls-Royce will be able to carry the equipment only for solving one task. Thus, patrol ships, minesweepers, scouts, etc. can be built on the basis of a universal platform. It is possible that in some cases it will even be possible to ensure the interchangeability of the target equipment and to change the equipment of a particular ship in accordance with the features of the next mission.

As stated in the promotional materials of the company-developer, such features of future unmanned ships will have a positive impact on the capabilities of the fleet as a whole. Large ships with the crew will still be able to solve a certain range of tasks, finding and attacking certain targets. Light crew ships, in turn, will be an addition to them, and will take on part of the necessary work. Proper selection of ships with crews and without them will allow you to create the most effective order.

Rolls-Royce presented its ideas in the field of crewless ships at the beginning of last autumn. Over the next few months, her concept-project was the subject of numerous discussions at different levels and naturally attracted the attention of both professionals and lovers of marine subjects. However, until a certain time the real fate of the project remained in question. None of the naval forces of the world showed real interest in the proposed project. This situation persisted until recently, when very interesting statements were made.

January 12 concept theme from Rolls-Royce raised the head of the naval operations of the US Navy, Admiral John M. Richardson. He recalled this project, commenting on the current goals and objectives of the naval forces. In accordance with the decree of the country's leadership, in the future the combat strength of the naval forces should be brought to the 355 ships. One of the ways to achieve such goals, Admiral Richardson called the construction of crewless ships.

It should be noted that the US Navy already consists of several unmanned complexes of reconnaissance and patrol missions. Nevertheless, all of them are made in the form factor of a boat or a light boat, which clearly affects the characteristics and range of tasks. Larger systems of this kind are being developed and tested, but so far they have not been able to reach adoption and begin full-scale operation.

The Rolls-Royce multi-purpose off-shore offshore platform concept project has already attracted the attention of a large potential customer in the United States naval forces, but even now its future is in question. From the words of Admiral J.M. Richardson should only be that the new project may be of interest in the context of the required build-up of the Navy. He has not yet indicated any real steps.

Despite this, the developer company has a great future for his new project. Last fall, head of the management of Naval Electrics, Automation and Control of Rolls-Royce Company Benjamin Thorp, commenting on the new concept, spoke about the features of the market, the wishes of customers and future plans. According to him, at present, the naval forces of the large developed countries are showing interest in surface crewless platforms. At the same time, the potential operator is more interested in an autonomous complex, rather than remotely controlled equipment. The reasons for this interest are simple: ships with maximum automation can be easier to operate, and also differ in the lower cost of construction and maintenance.

The proposed version of the crew without a crew

Rolls-Royce expects that over the next 10 years, new crew systems of the middle class will be used in advanced naval forces. As the concept of a mixed fleet composed of “traditional” and unmanned ships develops, the share of the latter will gradually increase. Using their experience and achievements, a large British company intends to take a leading position in this industry.

It should be noted that Rolls-Royce has every reason for optimistic estimates and projections. Her new concept project is indeed of some interest and, in the case of real interest on the part of customers, can reach implementation in practice and, at least, tests at sea landfills. Further developments cannot be ruled out, as a result of which unmanned ships with this or that special equipment will go into series and enter service.

Sharing the optimism of British shipbuilders, one should not forget that so far only the general concept of a promising offshore platform has been proposed. Its overall appearance was formed, but detailed elaboration was not carried out, and besides, some specific tasks had not been solved yet. Thus, to translate all the available ideas will require a long research and development work that requires a certain time. It cannot be ruled out that at this stage the project will encounter certain difficulties, which will lead to its appreciation or a shift in the deadlines for completion of the work.

To date, Rolls-Royce has published basic information about the technical shape of the future offshore platform, but so far has not clarified other important points. So, it was indicated what missions the prospective ship would be able to perform, but it has not yet been specified what equipment it will receive for this. Also, no weapon options for performing percussion missions or self-defense were identified. Other aspects of a full-fledged project remain in question. How exactly the existing design problems will be solved is not yet known.

At the moment, the project of a promising offshore crewless platform from Rolls-Royce remains at the preliminary development stage and for the time being its future is the subject of controversy. If the naval forces of any country are interested in this proposal, then the original idea will be developed and will be brought at least to the test. Otherwise, the concept project will add to the sad list of original, but useless proposals. What will be the future of the new British project - will be known later. Perhaps, new messages about this development will appear in the very near future.

On the materials of the sites:
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  1. zzdimk
    zzdimk 16 January 2018 06: 38
    This is all beautiful and healthy, but! If, regardless of the drone, the crew wants to settle on board? Who will follow this?
    1. Blackmokona
      Blackmokona 16 January 2018 08: 40
      Drones, turrets and other military robotics. Developed her sea. And in the event of an assault, the superior forces can shout with a banzai and a ship to blow up defense systems, taking all landing troops with them.
      1. KaPToC
        KaPToC April 21 2018 23: 44
        Quote: BlackMokona
        And in the event of an assault, the superior forces can shout with a banzai and a ship to blow up defense systems, taking all landing troops with them.

        That is, to destroy such a ship, is it enough to convince the computer of the danger of capture?
    2. Starover_Z
      Starover_Z 16 January 2018 12: 02
      Quote: zzdimk
      This is all beautiful and healthy, but!

      Collisions of ships are currently taking place at sea and there are crews at all, and what will happen next? How will the northern zones, with ice, hummocks, icebergs, pass with crewless cargo or with people on board? How will these systems behave in a storm?
      What about oil tankers and LNG vessels? In the event of a crash, who will be responsible for bottling and contaminating the oceans - shipowners or designers?
  2. Magic archer
    Magic archer 16 January 2018 08: 56
    In the light of the development of hacker technologies, these will be priority goals! If I had a hacker department in the Ministry of Defense, I would first look for ways or opportunities to influence such drones! I read an article in which Americans want to connect all their equipment to a common information field. This has many advantages but also many disadvantages! Imagine that at one fine moment the same F-35 will cease to obey the pilots ?!
    1. abrakadabre
      abrakadabre 19 January 2018 21: 47
      A bit wrong. Such vessels are primarily targets for EW units. And after them - for trophy teams.
  3. Brylevsky
    Brylevsky 16 January 2018 12: 07
    Without the approval of the IMO (International Maritime Organization) of Rolls-Royce, it will not be possible to sell any such vessel to shipowners. All major international conventions, and the main one from them, SOLAS, imply that the ship is controlled by people on this ship. Otherwise, the IMO will have to rewrite the entire maritime regulatory framework to please Rolls-Royce, which is unheard of. Or is Rolls-Royce so rich that it is ready to bribe European officials from maritime transport so that they give birth to another “addition” to the convention? Of course, such "robots" will certainly be of interest to the military, but such ships may leave civilian sailors without work.
    1. IImonolitII
      IImonolitII 17 January 2018 22: 09
      But do these conventions apply to military fleets, and not just merchant ones? And you can always organize a formal crew of 3 people.
      1. Brylevsky
        Brylevsky 20 January 2018 10: 30
        I talked about civil courts. On the military - depending on what. MARPOL is quite spread, except for the domestic fleet. So I'm not sure that any Register will issue a "Certificate of Minimum Crew", which will indicate a crew of three people. This is possible for a river ship, never for a ship making ocean crossings. Only three navigators will be required to "scatter" the watch, according to the MLC. Captain, old man ... And if in the car any problems begin? Who will twist the nuts? Robots? Therefore, we ply one minder ... or two. Like, brigade ... Kok people need? Or will the weeks of the transition "dry rations" be eaten? Maybe someday there will be such crews. But not in the near future.
  4. Lexus
    Lexus 16 January 2018 14: 14
    You need to look into the future today. Boldly.
    1. Greenwood
      Greenwood 16 January 2018 14: 31
      "today tomorrow, not everyone can watch. Or rather, not only everyone can watch. Few can do it." (c)
  5. Mikhail3
    Mikhail3 16 January 2018 14: 24
    Well, the idea of ​​a marine drone is terribly attractive for a number of reasons. There are much less restrictions on weight, volume, fuel mass and combat load. All systems can be duplicated as much as desired, there is a well-functioning navigation system around the globe. From a purely engineering point of view, it is strange that such boats did not appear first, before flying.
    On the other hand, sailors are the biggest zealots of tradition among the military. Most likely, they simply did not want to order such devices, so they did not exist. But if it breaks through ... It can be very interesting. Do not need volumes for the needs of the crew. And there are a lot of them on the ship. You can design perfect contours, you can use materials that no one had ever intended to use before. We'll see.
  6. Alexy
    Alexy 16 January 2018 23: 57
    From the realm of fiction, not even scientific.
    I especially liked the idea of ​​saving fuel by replacing a diesel engine with a GTA.
    1. IImonolitII
      IImonolitII 17 January 2018 22: 12
      GTU at constant speed working on an electric generator is quite economical
      1. KaPToC
        KaPToC April 21 2018 23: 45
        Quote: IImonolitII
        GTU at constant speed working on an electric generator is quite economical

        The same can be said about ICE.