United Kingdom: Royal Navy harnesses artificial intelligence for the first time at sea

The Royal Navy, the British Navy, used artificial intelligence for the first time at sea. It was as part of the “Formidable Shield” exercise, currently taking place off the coast of Scotland, that the AI ​​has been operated by the Maritime Component of the United Kingdom Army. Two applications have been tested to combat threats from supersonic missiles.

“Formidable Shield”: a biennial exercise against the most mentioned threats

“Formidable Shield” is an exercise designed to test the weapon systems of ten NATO navies and their interoperability against the latest and most advanced threats. Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom participate in the initiative which takes place every two years for three weeks.

As part of this exercise, a British operational experiment was carried out on the HMS Dragon, a type 45 destroyer, and the HMS Lancaster, a type 23 frigate. Two AI applications entitled Startle and Sycoiea were tested against a potential threat from supersonic missiles. Alister Jack, Secretary of State for Scotland, spoke about this experiment:

“It is vital that our courageous and skilled armed forces remain in the race for the security of the UK and our allies. The use of AI by the Royal Navy for the first time at sea is an important development to ensure the proper preparation to deal with the threats we may face. I am proud to see that two Scottish-built Royal Navy ships are at the heart of this exercise off the Hebrides. ”

Two artificial intelligence applications to neutralize missiles

It is thanks to the Above Water Systems program led by scientists from the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) that AI is harnessed to:

  • Improve early detection of a deadly threat
  • Speed ​​up the process implementation deadlines
  • Provide a rapid risk assessment to Royal Navy commanders to select the optimal weapon or measure to combat a potentially dangerous target.

DSTL worked in collaboration with the company Roke for the development of Startle, with CGI for the application Sycoiea, and with BAE Systems to ensure that these AI-based tools can work with existing combat and radar management systems. Alasdair Gilchrist, DSTL’s “Above Water Systems” program manager, spoke about his organization’s involvement in designing tailored AI systems for the Royal Navy:

“DSTL has invested heavily in the systems currently installed, but it is imperative that we continue to invest to ensure that the Royal Navy remains relevant, either now or in the long term. Being able to bring AI to ships is a massive achievement, and while we can prove that AI works in laboratories, successfully convincing UK naval personnel is something brilliant. ”

Startle was thought to help the military navy in tasks related to video surveillance. The tool provides live recommendations and alerts. Sycoiea uses information from Startle to assess threats and recommend actions the command can deploy to best respond to threats.

The British Defense Command has indicated that it wants to invest even more in AI and increase the automation of the systems used, in order to adapt to future threats.

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