The Royal Navy has released new submarine concepts that hint at how 3D printing could revolutionise naval design.
The designs have been produced by a team of young engineers from UKNEST for the Royal Navy. The designs mimic sea animals and include both manned and unmanned concept undersea vessels which could handle a variety of tasks in a future world experiencing intense competition between nations for ocean resources.
The Royal Navy’s future success rests on developing the skills and expertise that will keep us one step ahead of the competition [..] That’s why the Royal Navy has joined with our partners to unveil Nautilus 100. These concepts demonstrate that the UK has the creative foresight to consider the future underwater world, what it might look like, and what role the Royal Navy might play. Most importantly, we want to help inspire the next generation of British scientists and engineers to be bold in their ambitions.Captain Sharon Malkin, the Royal Navy’s head of Innovation
The designs were made in preparation for celebrating the 100th anniversary of the launch of the USS Nautilus – the world’s first nuclear submarine which set sail in 1954.
The Nautilus 100 (aka the mothership)
The keystone concept produced by the team at UKNEST is the Nautilus 1000 mothership.
She is a cross between a whale and a manta ray and was conceived as a command and control submarine.
The vessel would act as both an information hub and also a weapons carrier.
Her 3D printed hull would combine of light but strong acrylic materials bonded to super-strong alloys capable of withstanding the extreme pressure at depths of 1,000m+
Anechoic coatings formed by nanometre thin graphene “scales” would be layered to create a skin around the craft
Advanced multi spectral, low power active and passive sensors would be moulded into the hull
The Eel is an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) acts as the main sensors and secondary weapons carriers for the Nautilus.
Each drone would be capable of acting autonomously and would be launched from the weapons bays on the top of the submarine.
The design is based on the eel – the crafts sinuous body would move with an eel-like sine wave propulsion motion, which should allow it to disguise itself as a marine animal to fool enemy sensors.
Each Eel would then carry a series of micro-drones which would be 3D printed from cold saltwater-soluble polymers.
These operate in a swarm and are designed for recon.
Each micro UUVs could be programmed to dissolve at a set time allowing them to be deployed on one-way missions into hostile territory without the danger of being captured, and allowing them to become a strong adhesive to potentially block water uptakes and intakes to disable ships
While the Nautilus mothership would also be armed with torpedoes for defence its main armament would be Flying Fish drones.
This adaptable weapons system would engage surface ships, submarines, and land targets.
The Flying Fish drones mimic their namesake with wings that double as fins. Each craft would use a combination of microturbines and plasma batteries for propulsion.
This design could allow each drone to switch between flying to swimming and let it stay just above the sea surface or just below.
Each vessel would be modular, allowing for a choice of payloads that include conventional explosives, cluster warheads, shockwave emitters, and electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons.