Royal Navy's new James Bond 'spy boat' fires missile in an historic first for UK drone tech

A NEW Royal Navy robotic ‘spy boat’ has become the first of its kind to successfully launch a missile at sea.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 11:39 am

The futuristic Madfox vessel – which has been undergoing tests in the Solent for months – fired the missile during a Nato war game in Portugal.

The two-week exercise saw the latest in drone technology being put through its paces to see how autonomous military kit can be used on the battlefield.

Madfox, which is kitted out with hi-tech cameras able to spy on ships hundreds of metres away, was part of a surveillance training operation that ended in a successful missile launch.

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The Royal Navy's new Madfox drone boat joined its first overseas training drill, which saw the hi-tech craft launching a missile at a dummy target. Photo: Royal Navy

For the trial, a Puma drone launched by USNS Carson City relayed information to a land-based control centre of a possible target – in this case a simulated target of a Spanish crewless boat.

Once received, that information was sent to the navy spy boat and the missile launched.

Commander Antony Crabb, team leader of NavyX – which is testing the Madfox – said: ‘The system launch from Madfox was a UK first, demonstrating the potential of uncrewed surface vessels for lethal and other payloads; crucially, the whole serial was commanded, enabled and facilitated using information provided by uncrewed systems.

‘It is a significant step for UK/US interoperability and interchangeability.’

A Puma drone is launched from a ship during the two-week Nato drill at sea, which saw autonomous technology from across the alliance being put to the test. Photo: Royal Navy

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Later in the exercise, Royal Navy technology supported night-time amphibious operations. It saw Madfox observe a ‘target’, undetected, and provide live imagery using its onboard cameras.

As Portuguese Marines stormed ashore, aerial drones provided further surveillance, sending imagery to computer tablets within the assault forces. Personnel in the maritime operations centre were able to make an assessment of the target defences and enemy strength before ordering an attack.

Lieutenant Maia of the Corpo de Fuzileiros said: ‘The situational awareness provided by Madfox and the aerial drones was brilliant and the new technology enabled very close coordination between the headquarters and my Marines.

The Madfox boat pictured at sea with another smaller craft during the Nato training exercise. Photo: Royal Navy

‘Even before leaving the ship we had good information, and this was updated as we travelled to the target. It really showed how Nato drones are becoming more and more interoperable.’

More than 900 personnel, 70 autonomous uncrewed systems and 11 navy vessels took part in the drill, which was Madfox’s first overseas test.

The spy boat has previously been carrying out tests across the Solent.

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