Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced a £75 million fund for the Royal Navy to develop drone mine-hunters and a hub to develop new technology.
The money will enable the creation of the two autonomous ships which will be fitted with “cutting-edge sonars to enable remote mine-hunting at higher range, speed and accuracy in the Gulf”.
The money will also help found a joint military and industry “accelerator” hub which has been named NavyX.
An MoD spokeswoman said: “The Royal Navy’s new autonomy and lethality accelerator will look to overhaul and turbocharge the way the Royal Navy buys the latest technology, streamlining the process and creating a brand-new facility where industry, military and academia can test, assess and purchase new equipment.”
Mr Williamson said: “Today’s announcement will not only allow the Royal Navy to rapidly harness dynamic, cutting-edge equipment at speed, but also ensure they can outpace adversaries both on the water and the sea floor.
“Technology is moving faster than ever, and with the defence landscape rapidly evolving, we must ensure our armed forces are continually pushing the boundaries at the forefront of this change.”
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “From the invention of the steam catapult and aircraft carrier, to the first use of sonars and torpedoes, the Royal Navy has a strong pedigree in the development, testing and introduction of new technologies that help us keep our country safe.
“Across the generations, our willingness to embrace innovation has kept us one step ahead of our adversaries, and to assure our continued success on operations into the future it is vital that the Royal Navy continues to be equipped with the latest cutting-edge capabilities we need to address the rapidly evolving challenges that pose a threat to our national interests around the globe.”
Mr Williamson made the announcement during a visit to QinetiQ’s Portsdown Technology Park in Portsmouth, Hampshire, which is building the UK Centre of Excellence for Maritime Mission Systems.
The secretary of state was shown examples of state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles including a flying suit, hoverbikes, vehicles, vessels, and drones.