Royal Navy trials use of AI at sea for first time

For the first time, AI is being used by the Royal Navy at sea as part of Exercise Formidable Shield, which is currently taking place off the coast of Scotland.

This Operational Experiment on the Type 45 Destroyer (HMS Dragon) and Type 23 Frigate (HMS Lancaster), is using the AI applications, Startle and Sycoiea, which were tested against a supersonic missile threat.

As outlined in the recent Defence Command Paper, the Ministry of Defence is committed to investing in AI and increased automation to transform capabilities as the Armed Forces adapt to meet future threats, which will be supported by the £24bn uplift in defence spending over the next four years.

As part of the Above Water Systems programme, led by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) scientists, AI is being used to improve the early detection of lethal threat, accelerates engagement timelines and provides Royal Navy Commanders with a rapid hazard assessment to select the optimum weapon or measure to counter and destroy the target.

"Dstl has invested heavily in the systems that are installed at the moment, but it’s imperative that we continue to invest to make sure that the Royal Navy remains relevant now and in the future," explained Dstl’s Programme Manager, Alasdair Gilchrist MBE. "Being able to bring AI onto the ships is a massive achievement, and while we can prove the AI works in the labs, actually getting Navy personnel hands on is brilliant."

Dstl has worked closely with industry partners Roke (Startle App), CGI (Sycoiea App) and BAE Systems to ensure the new AI-based applications work alongside existing radar and combat management systems.

The Startle AI system is designed to help ease the load on sailors monitoring the ‘Air Picture’ in the Operations Room, providing live recommendations and alerts. The Sycoiea system builds upon this with Threat Evaluation and Weapon assignment identifying the nearest threat and how best to deal with it.

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