Ocean life inspires new Royal Navy submarine concepts

The Royal Navy has revealed a number of new futuristic submarine concepts, inspired by the shape and movement of sea creatures.

Submarine concepts

Designs include a crewed mothership shaped like a manta ray, as well as unmanned eel-like structures equipped with sensors, and flying fish-shaped torpedoes designed to swarm enemy targets. The concepts were created by UK scientists and engineers aged between 16 and 34 as part of the Nautilus 100 competition, celebrating the the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus.

“It’s predicted that in 50 years’ time there will be more competition between nations to live and work at sea or under it,” said Commander Peter Pipkin, the Royal Navy’s Fleet Robotics Officer. “So it’s with this in mind that the Royal Navy is looking at its future role, and how it will be best equipped to protect Britain’s interests around the globe.”

Submarine concepts

“We have always sought to think differently and come up with ideas that challenge traditional thinking. If only 10 per cent of these ideas become reality, it will put us at the cutting edge of future warfare and defence operations.”

According to the Royal Navy, the manta ray-shaped motherships would be built from super-strong alloys and acrylics, with surfaces that could change their shape. The vessel would be powered using a hybrid algae-electric plant, with propulsion coming via tunnel drives capable of delivering speeds up to 150 knots.

Submarine concepts

The eel-like vessels would be launched from the mothership, loaded with different equipment pods depending on the mission. Munitions pods could be used to attack targets, or sensor pods could be used for reconnaissance, dissolving to avoid detection once data had been collected.

The project was run by UKNEST, a not-for-profit organisation that promotes science, engineering and technology for UK naval design. More than 20 young scientists and engineers took part in the challenge.

“It was amazing to see a whole manner of disciplines coming together in this project,” said 21-year-old Gemma Jefferies from Bristol, an engineering assistant with L3 Marine Systems UK who took part in the challenge.

“It was great to let our imaginations run with crazy ideas, some that may not actually be considered science fiction in the near future.”

The full range of Nautilus 100 designs can be viewed here.