Austal to Convert Decommissioned RAN’s Patrol Boat into USV

The Royal Australian Navy, L3Harris, and Austal will convert the recently decommissioned patrol boat, HMAS Maitland, into an autonomous patrol boat.

Under the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial (PBAT), announced at Indo Pacific 2022, HMAS Maitland will be overhauled to enable remote and autonomous operations. The Armidale-class ship was just decommissioned last week.

The project aims to “progress the concept of operations and certification approach” for unmanned platforms, while “delivering [a] better understanding” of the unique requirements of remotely operated and autonomous vehicles. 

HMAS Maitland is currently having its weapons and military systems removed ahead of being overhauled by Austal. Once the 18-month refit is completed, it will embark on a variety of tests and trials off the Australian coast. During that phase of the program, the vessel will operate in a variety of modes, including manned, unmanned but remotely piloted, and fully autonomous.

As well as informing the future of unmanned vessels in the Royal Australian Navy, the program’s findings will be used in the development of autonomous systems aboard crewed vessels. Automating systems aboard crewed vessels has the potential to reduce crew workload, while increasing operational safety.

“[PBAT will also] Transfer lessons learned on the application of remote or autonomous systems to the RAN’s current fleet to potentially optimize crew workload. Remote and autonomous operation has the potential to reduce crew workload and increase operational safety by reducing human error.” 

Throughout the program, Austal and the Royal Australian Navy will collaborate with their U.S counterparts, who are testing similar concepts aboard Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 13, USNS Apalachicola

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