In 2015, the Royal Navy released its concept of the surface warship of 2050. Now the RN is casting its crystal ball beyond 2050 by asking a team of young engineers from UKNEST to develop concepts for future British submarines. With designs that mimic sea animals, the manned and unmanned concept undersea vessels are intended to handle a variety of tasks in a future world experiencing intense competition between nations for ocean resources.
Today’s submarines may have become much more sophisticated in the past 40 years, but the basic design, construction, and missions of attack and ballistic missile submarines hasn’t changed much. However, the 21st century is likely to be very different from the days of the Cold War, with increasing competition over undersea territory and resources as emerging regional powers flex their muscles and aquaculture, mining, and industry move away from the coasts and into the deep oceans.
Since this scenario would bring new military challenges, the Royal Navy tasked UKNEST, a forum founded in 2005 to promote the engineering, science and technology interests of UK Naval Defence, to come up with some blue-sky concepts to explore how new technology can address new threats and protect British assets and freedom of navigation. Taking nature as their inspiration, the graduate and apprentice engineers came up with ideas that melded bleeding-edge technology with simplified complex systems to produce more flexible and cheaper vessels.