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RAN to test autonomous maritime capability

The east coast of NSW is set to host a major maritime exercise aimed at assessing the capabilities of uncrewed, robotics and autonomous systems.

The east coast of NSW is set to host a major maritime exercise aimed at assessing the capabilities of uncrewed, robotics and autonomous systems.

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has commenced Exercise Autonomous Warrior 2022 (AW22) – a simulated naval battlespace exercise held at HMAS Creswell in Jervis Bay, NSW.

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Involving approximately 300 personnel from 40 organisations across Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, AW22 is expected to host test and evaluation activities designed to assess the effectiveness of uncrewed, robotic and autonomous systems.

An estimated 40 autonomous systems and technologies will be put to the test in simulations involving maritime, littoral, air and land operations.

Among the capabilities to be assessed are mine countermeasures, survey, surveillance, reconnaissance, undersea warfare, intelligence gathering, force protection, interoperability and interchangeability.

AW22 is also expected to include testing of sophisticated Command and Control (C2) technologies, designed to receive, process and present data inputs from multiple systems to inform command decisions and direct autonomous systems’ actions.

Director General Warfare Innovation - Navy, Commodore Darron Kavanagh, stressed the value of AW22, particularly in a deteriorating security environment.   

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“Throughout the Indo-Pacific, Australia is facing evolving maritime security challenges,” he said.

“This international maritime Robotics and Autonomous System Operational Experimentation activity will evaluate leading-edge technologies to help us respond to those challenges.

“AW22 is an exciting opportunity to showcase the utility and advantages of uncrewed systems in a variety of warfare domains in collaboration with our allies, partners and industry. It demonstrates our commitment to ongoing collaboration, transformation and adaptation to meet strategic requirements.”

AW22 is set to be the largest iteration of the exercise since 2018, with recent iterations limited as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.

AW22 is scheduled to conclude on Friday, 27 May 2022.

The exercise kicks off just weeks after Defence confirmed its selection of the Schiebel Pacific S-100 Camcopter as the preferred platform for Block One of the SEA 129 Phase 5 Maritime Unmanned Aircraft System project.

The program aims to deliver a UAS platform designed to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions from the RAN’s Anzac Class frigates and Arafura Class offshore patrol vessels (OPVs). 

Raytheon Australia will serve as the prime systems integrator, with the company previously committing to set up an Asia-Pacific manufacturing and sustainment hub for S-100 UAS in the Shoalhaven region of NSW.

The company is now expected to work with Defence via a request for tender (RFT) procurement process before presenting to government for a second pass decision later this year.

Meanwhile, Anduril Industries, which announced its expansion into Australia earlier this year, has also commenced commercial negotiations with Defence for a co-funded design, development and manufacturing program for extra-large autonomous undersea vehicles (XL-AUVs).

The three-year deal – worth an estimated AU$140 million – is expected to involve capability assessment and prototyping, with three platforms set to be delivered to the Royal Australian Navy over the course of the program.  

The XL-AUV is billed as an affordable, autonomous, long endurance, multi-mission capable AUV.

According to Anduril, the platform is modular and customisable, capable of being optimised with varying payloads for advanced intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting missions.   

Anduril has committed to designing, developing, and manufacturing the XL-AUVs in Australia, supported by the recruitment and retention of a highly skilled workforce to fill key roles across maritime engineering, software development, advanced manufacturing, robotics, propulsion design, and mission operations.

The company has also noted plans to actively partner with local SMEs and the research and technology communities.

[Related: Anduril tapped to develop autonomous undersea UAVs for RAN ]

Charbel Kadib

Charbel Kadib

News Editor – Defence and Security, Momentum Media

Prior to joining the defence and aerospace team in 2020, Charbel was news editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business, where he covered developments in the banking and financial services sector for three years. Charbel has a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations, graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a double major in politics and journalism. Charbel has also completed internships with The Australian Department of Communications and the Arts and public relations agency Fifty Acres.

RAN to test autonomous maritime capability
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