Navy Uses Artificial Intelligence At Sea For First Time

New technology has been tested against a supersonic missile threat on exercise off Scotland.

The Royal Navy has used artificial intelligence (AI) at sea for the first time ever, putting defence science into practice off the Scottish coast.

Exercise Formidable Shield has seen two Royal Navy vessels test the performance of AI applications while faced with missile attacks.

The trial, led by defence scientists, took place on board Type 45 Destroyer HMS Dragon and Type 23 frigate HMS Lancaster and follows UK commitments to AI investment in this year's Defence Command Paper

The applications, 'Startle' and 'Sycoiea', were used for early detection and prevention of supersonic missiles while providing commanders with information on how to destroy targets.

Part of the Above Water Systems programme, the concepts were brought on board by Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) scientists and provide rapid hazard assessment capability.

'Startle' helps sailors in the Operations Room to monitor the air for threats, providing alerts and live recommendations.

'Sycoiea' then takes this data to evaluate which weapon systems on board are best placed to eliminate the threat.

HMS Argyll (front right) joined HMS Dragon (centre) and HMS Lancaster on Exercise Formidable Shield (Picture: Royal Navy).

Both applications were integrated with the ships' current radars and combat management processes.

HMS Lancaster's Weapon Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Commander Adam Leveridge described the test as a "glimpse into our highly-autonomous future", while Dstl was pleased to see lab technology reach the hand of personnel in trial stages.

Ex Formidable Shield involves multiple nations, including the US, and tests air defence at sea with live fire once every two years.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack praised the developments on board HMS Dragon and HMS Lancaster, adding that it is vital UK defence stays "ahead of the game".

Cover image: Crew on board HMS Dragon (Picture: Royal Navy).