The black-hulled XV Patrick Blackett sailed into the city’s harbour this afternoon, ahead of a formal naming ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base on Friday.
The vessel will join the Senior Service’s NavyX team, which aims fast-track the development of cutting-edge tech from the laboratory and into the hands of sailors.
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Not much is known about exactly how the support vessel will be used. However, she’s been designated as a dedicated experimentation ship and is expected to make her seafaring debut in autumn.
Navy sources have said she would act as a ‘blank canvas’ for researchers to test unmanned autonomous vehicles, freeing up smaller warships currently tasked with supporting tests.
The ship is named after a renowned British experimental physicist known for his work on cloud chambers and cosmic rays, winning the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1948.
Patrick Blackett was also a veteran of the Royal Navy, serving in the First World War. During the Second World War he a scientific adviser to Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Pile, commander in chief of anti-aircraft command.
He then became the director of operation research with the admiralty, from 1942 to 1945, with his research helping to directly improve the survival odds of convoys and bombers.
Taking to Twitter, Rear Admiral James Parkin said: ‘Having fought in World War 1 as a naval officer, in World War 2 he was critical to the UK’s war efforts as an eminent scientific advisor, developing ideas on subjects as diverse as convoy protection, anti-aircraft defences, and the futility of strategic bombing.
‘Although not a household name today, Patrick Blackett has a crater on the moon named after him, as well as a lecture theatre and hall at @ManchesterUniv and a laboratory at @imperialcollege, and a Blue Plaque was unveiled at his house in 2016.
‘However, the @RoyalNavy has not, until now, found an appropriate way to honour a man who did so much for his nation, and the world. Which is why I’m thrilled the “Experimental Vessel (XV) Patrick Blackett will arrive into @HMNBPortsmouth.’