The Royal Navy may not always have ships out at sea, the First Sea Lord has said as he acknowledged the growing needs for the UK’s Armed Forces to invest in Artificial Intelligence, drones and technology to face down future threats.
In his keynote speech at the Seapower Conference in London, Admiral Sir Ben Key said: “I don’t know if there will still be ships upon the sea in another 500 years but the sea will still exist, and we at least will be around for much of that history.”
Sir Ben cautioned that trade would continue to travel by sea, as well as the energy and data under it, and that as a result more investment in drones and autonomous systems is needed.
He said the “rapid” pace of change particularly in AI “is breathtaking”.
“Everyone, friend and potential adversary alike is stepping into this space and it is causing us to reimagine warfare, creating dynamic new benchmarks for accuracy, efficiency and lethality,” he said. “We are being deliberately ambitious, because we have to be.
“The goal is enhanced lethality and survivability through the deployment of AI-enabled capabilities.”
He added the changing warfare landscape “is causing us to reimagine warfare, creating dynamic new benchmarks for accuracy, efficiency and lethality”.
“The goal is enhanced lethality and survivability through the deployment of AI-enabled capabilities,” he said.
Sir Ben said it was imperative that the nation rises to the challenge, especially that posed by Russian submarines as “coming second” was not “a desirable option”.
“As we watch the increasing deployment by Russia of their most modern submarines, some of the very quietest in the world, you would expect me to be investing in the cutting-edge technology anti-submarine capabilities that allow us to detect, find and if necessary defeat them,” he said.
Over the last year, the UK has invested heavily in the underwater battlespace with the arrival of HMS Anson and the acquisition of RFA Proteus and RFA Stirling Castle, two new ships to protect undersea cables and infrastructure and tackle the future mine threat respectively.
The First Sea Lord also said that he wants to see “longer range, longer endurance drones capable of both gathering intelligence and striking at targets”.
Another vital element of increasing the striking power of the Fleet is the Mark 41 missile silo.
The launcher is being fitted to all eight Type 26 frigates, allowing the new warships to potentially use a variety of current and future anti-air, anti-surface, ballistic missile defence and strike missiles, including the RN’s Future Offensive Surface Weapon.
The launchers will also now be fitted to five Type 31 frigates, currently under construction on the Forth.