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Futuristic submarine concepts really dive in at the deep end

30 August 2017

Marine lifeforms are the inspiration behind the Royal Navy’s series of futuristic submarine concepts designed to change underwater warfare.

Nautilus 100 (Credit: Royal Navy)

The Royal Navy challenged young engineers across the UK to image what a future submarine would look like and how it would be used to defend the country. Scientists and engineers from UKNEST, not-for-profit organisation which promotes STEM for UK naval design, responded to the challenge. Over 20 of them took part and took the complex systems required by an advanced submarine and applied the latest technological ideas to make them easier to construct, cheaper to run and more deadly in battle.

Commander Peter Pipkin, the Royal Navy's Fleet Robotics Officer, said: "With more than 70 percent of the planet's surface covered by water, the oceans remain one of the world's great mysteries and untapped resources.

"It's predicted that in 50 years' time there will be more competition between nations to live and work at sea or under it. So it's with this in mind that the Royal Navy is looking at its future role, and how it will be best equipped to protect Britain's interests around the globe.

Gemma Jefferies, 21, from Bristol, is an engineering assistant with L3 Marine Systems UK. She took part in the project and said: "It was amazing to see a whole manner of disciplines coming together in this project. It was great to let our imaginations run with crazy ideas, some which may not actually be considered science fiction in the near future."

Here’s what they came up with:

Nautilus 100

This mothership would be capable of launching unmanned underwater vehicles shaped like eels, which carry pods packed with sensors for various missions (Credit: Royal Navy)

The whale shark/manta ray-shaped mothership would be built from super-strong alloys and acrylics, with surfaces that can morph in shape. It will have hybrid algae-electric cruising power and propulsion technologies including tunnel drives which work similarly to a Dyson bladeless fan. It could travel at speed of up to 150 knots.

Called Nautilus 100, this mothership would be capable of launching unmanned underwater vehicles shaped like eels, which carry pods packed with sensors for various missions. These pods would be capable of damaging an enemy vessel then dissolving on demand at the end of an operation. 

There would also be fish-shaped torpedoes that could be sent to swarm against enemy targets.

The project was named such to mark the 100th anniversary of the launch of the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine. 

Rear Admiral Tim Hodgson, the Ministry of Defence's Director of Submarine Capability, said: "We want to encourage our engineers of the future to be bold, think radically and push boundaries. From Nelson's tactics at the Battle of Trafalgar to Fisher's revolutionary Dreadnought battleships, the Royal Navy's success has always rested on a combination of technology and human skill.

There would also be fish-shaped torpedoes that could be sent to swarm against enemy targets (Credit: Royal Navy)

"The pace of global innovation is only going to increase, so for the UK to be a leader in this race it needs to maintain its leadership in skills and technology. Hopefully this project has inspired the next generation of British scientists to be bold in their ambitions and I congratulate them for their inspiring work."

Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin said: "These remarkable designs display the great promise of our young engineers and scientists and the great ambition of the Royal Navy. 

"This kind of innovation is at the heart of defence and the UK's world-leading capability. That's why we are using our rising budget to invest in high-tech capability to keep our Armed Forces at the cutting-edge, and our £800 million Innovation Fund aims to take advantage of exactly these kinds of futuristic ideas."  

Source: Royal Navy


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