Weapon discharge initiative is sealed

Weir Group company will work with Dera on research

Weir Group subsidiary Strachan & Henshaw and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) have signed a deal to cooperate in research and development into naval weapons discharge systems.

Announced at this week’s International Maritime Defence Exhibition (Imdex) in Greenwich, the initiative will involve the construction of a new shore-based weapon discharge test facility at Strachan & Henshaw’s Bristol factory.

This will include parts of Dera’s existing shore-based weapon discharge facility at Portland, Dorset, which will be dismantled. Work on the new facility starts next year to be running by 1999.

Dera said that because it lacks major research programmes in this field, it was better to use the facilities it will share at the new site, rather than mothball the equipment at Portland.

Although this was a time of ‘low research’ for Dera, industry, including Strachan & Henshaw, was preparing to bid for weapon discharge systems on warships like the Royal Navy’s future Astute class submarines.

Dr John Dering, director of Dera’s centre of marine technology, said the new agreement furthers Dera’s ‘stated aim of forming closer links with British industry’.

Dera also demonstrated its ‘virtual ship’ concept at Imdex. This simulates systems in an operational environment and helps identify the best buys.

The ‘virtual ship’ demonstrator at Imdex uses a distributive interactive simulation protocol to link several simulators from GEC Marconi, Matra BAe Dynamics, Thomson Training & Simulation, EDS and Flames Systems, as well as from Dera, the Ministry of Defence and the US Naval Underwater Warfare Centre.

‘The demonstrator is meant to show the concept’s feasibility and its applicability to a PC. This tool could be used to identify the operational effectiveness of existing systems in new platforms at very early stages of the procurement cycle,’ Dera said.

‘It’s bringing virtual reality to smart procurement, in that you may not have the system but still need to know how it meets overall requirements,’ Dera said. ‘It lets you hopefully identify the real candidate systems for future development. It should make the procurement cycle more smart and lead-in research more focused’.