UK is an island nation, most of the UK’s connections to the wider world are provided by sea with and over 90% of its trade is carried by ship. UK maritime sector accounts for over 2% of the entire economy and supports one in every 50 jobs. The UK’s first ever National Strategy for Maritime Security calls for applying principles of integration and collaboration to five core Maritime Security Tasks, “These represent the strategic ‘ways’ of our approach – to UNDERSTAND, INFLUENCE,PREVENT, PROTECT and RESPOND.”
Under the title “Dreadnought 2050” – a reference to HMS Dreadnought, the warship that entered Royal Navy service in 1906 whose revolutionary technology meant she outclassed all previous vessels – the project sought outside the box ideas about systems future warships would be equipped with. Commander Steve Prest said the Royal Navy challenged the defence industry to brainstorm innovative technology that could give it an operational edge in the battlefields of the future.”We therefore welcome a project that allows some of Britain’s best and brightest young engineers to come up with ideas on what a warship might look like or be equipped with in 2050,” he told Sky News.
Startpoint Dreadnought 2050 concept warship
British scientists and engineers have released designs for a high-tech Royal Navy vessel, offering a glimpse of navy’s advanced future warships. The design was released by a group of naval electronic systems companies who worked with Startpoint, a group formed to promote the UK’s approach to maritime mission systems procurement.
Dreadnought 2050 is a tri-hull design made of an ultra-strong, acrylic and graphene that can be turned translucent to give all-round visibility. This would allow the crew to see through the hull, improving control of close-in battles and improved vision when manoeuvring. Graphene could be used to increase the strength of ships, as well coating hulls to reduce drag, meaning they could sail faster and use less fuel.
Engineers also considered ballast tanks that could be filled with water so the ships sat much lower in the water, making them stealthy and smaller targets, when they were not being driven at high speeds by waterjets powered by fusion reactors. Propelled by silent electric water jets powered by either a fusion reactor or highly efficient turbines, the Dreadnought 2050 would cruise at 50 knots (57 mph, 92 km/h) and have an unlimited range, depending on its power source.
A floodable dock at the rear of the ship will provide a launch zone for Royal Marines and swimming drones, while a deck on top of the ship will be used for launching armed aerial drones created by the ship’s 3D printer.
A quadcopter hovering above the ship and attached by a power tether made of carbon nanotubes would host a suite of multi-spectral sensors and laser weapons to take out aircraft and missiles. The drones will be connected to the hull via a cryogenically cooled, carbon-nanotube tether. It’s an extension cord to power the drone’s advanced sensors and laser weapon.
The bow is equipped with an electromagnetic rail gun with a 200km range will offer protection from the distance and a number of microwave guns will be used for close range combat. The outrigger hulls are armed with two tubes that contain supercavitating torpedoes which can travel as fast as 300 knots.
All of the operations carried out on the ship can be controlled from the “Ops Room”. In this room main focus is a 3-D holographic command table and attendant communications hubs that would provide a new level of situational awareness. This table connects all the ship’s systems with onboard commanders, the Ministry of Defense headquarters, the Royal Navy headquarters and NATO allies as well.
The stereo visual display can be rotated and zoomed as the captain sees fit to focus on specific aspects of a battle at sea, on land, underwater, air or in the space. Meanwhile, smaller holographic pods allow the Ops crew to focus on details relevant to their tasks.
Dreadnought 2050 would require only 50 crews as it features remote control technology. Currently, warships need at least 200 crew members to operate a vessel.
Starpoint, an organization of the Royal Navy tasked with overseeing the project stated “the mission is to tackle parallel challenges of providing advanced technology set against the backdrop of funding constraints”.
But the ideas behind what Startpoint, a collective of defence companies and the MoD, has called “Dreadnought 2050” are already rooted in reality. Stealth design, to ensure low visibility on radars, is already being adopted in most modern warships; the US Navy is developing laser weapons and electro-magnetic rail-guns; basic drones have already been produced by 3D printers.
Startpoint senior executive Muir Macdonald said “While some of these technologies push today’s boundaries in science and engineering, there is no reason why elements could not be incorporated into future designs,” in a press release.
“The Royal Navy needs visionary, innovative thinking and these concepts point the way to cutting edge technology which can be acquired at less cost and operated with less manpower than anything at sea today.”
The Royal Institution of Naval Architects invites ideas for Future Surface Vessels
Modern navies are a trade-off between advanced technologies and cost, in both construction and operation. Versatility, flexibility, and affordability are key criteria which governments need to balance as warships become an exportable commodity, where market value is just as important as the strategic value of any newly built vessel.
“A key theme in many new builds, that goes some way to address the inherent compromises in warship design, is modularity. The development of the Royal Navy Type 26 Frigate and the Littoral Combat Ship in the USA are cases in point. Modular design allows adaptability in meeting threats from smaller vessels, used by pirates and terrorists, to larger threats from enemy navies. While these examples come straight from the drawing board, other countries are adapting existing platforms to meet the ever changing strategic landscape.”
To further investigate this topic RINA invites papers from naval architects, class societies, operators, researchers, and builders on all related topics, including: Requirements for future ships, Supporting surface vessel capability, Operational effectiveness and efficiency, Survivability, Structural integrity, Human factors, Modularity in design, construction and outfitting , New build over life extension, Off board systems and their integration, Habitability and manning, and Lessons Learnt from Surface Vessel Projects.