ATLAS ELEKTRONIK UK SEA Class – Delivering an Innovative, Flexible, Cost-effective Solution to the UK MOD
Atlas Elektronik UK (AEUK) have developed a range of workboats which feature a common base platform with interchangeable capability modules, allowing the boats to be operated in a number of different operational roles.
The UK’s Vahana project is part of a wider modernisation programme for the Royal Navy (RN) small boat flotilla and has seen AEUK deliver 26 out of 38 SEA Class workboats to various RN organisations under a Contract worth up to £45M.
The platform range will be used for a number of roles from Logistics Support, Officer Training, Hydrographic Survey and Passenger Transport to Diving Training and Operations.
The workboats will be operated from UK home ports and RN surface vessels including the RN’s newest aircraft carrier HMS PRINCE OF WALES, as well as Survey Vessels HMS ECHO, ENTERPRISE and PROTECTOR.
All SEA Class Boats are capable of operating up to Sea State 4 and achieve a minimum of 25 knots. Proven, whole body vibration absorbing seats are fitted on all variants to minimise shock and reduce operator fatigue. Propulsion is delivered by two Yanmar marine diesel engines which range from 350hp to 1000hp and Hamilton Waterjet propulsion providing safe, shallow water operations. The propulsion system features the Hamilton Blue Arrow CAN Bus control system and mouse-boat control for optimum control and manoeuvrability. This propulsion system is also the same as that used in AEUK’s Uncrewed Surface Vessels (USVs) and allows for full autonomous operations through the integration of AEUKs Remote Control System (RCS) and Sense and Avoid (SAA) systems.
For crewed use, all workboat variants incorporate berths, toilet, shower, galley as well as foul weather gear drying and gun lockers. These facilities enhance crew comfort and allow extended operations to be conducted.
The Vahana project will replace some of the RN’s ageing fleet of small boats and have been designed to meet the Customers latest strategies for equipment procurement. This includes equipment commonality, reduced documentation and training requirements and improved platform interoperability resulting in reduced through life costs.
By utilising common components for all workboats, the Operators have familiarity of not only their operation across the range of boats but also in their maintenance. This approach also reduces the range and scale of spares required, with the associated natural reduction in cost. Through this commonality, the training and documentation burden for all systems is reduced.
The modular capability allows the Operators to re-role each workboat to suit the latest operational requirement. The Customers design intent was for the boats to be re-roled within a 30 day maintenance period however through the use of modern, electronic control systems the re-role of the boats can be conducted within a matter of days, dependent of the change of role.
HMS MAGPIE, is based at HMNB Devonport (Plymouth) and during its first 3 years of service has been employed in inshore, coastal survey activities around the UK. It was tasked with the survey of Portsmouth Harbour to ensure the safety of UKs latest Aircraft Carriers, HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH and HMS PRINCE OF WALES. The integrated multi-beam echo sounders and towed side-scan sonar systems are used to survey the seabed to provide 3D imagery and a detailed understanding of its topography. HMS MAGPIEs outfit consists of sleeping accommodation and facilities for its crew of nine, workstations for six personnel, and can be deployed for up to seven days. The survey vessel is achieving excellence in its survey tasks and proving to be exceptional value for money to the MOD and Royal Navy.
The RN will receive thirteen workboats for training, logistics support and survey purposes, with 3 of the boats being fitted with a small survey module and destined for the RN’s Survey Ships HMS ECHO, ENTERPRISE and PROTECTOR. The boats feature the usual crew facilities and like the rest of the workboats are fitted with an extensive IMO approved navigation suite of equipment. For climatic extremes, a high capacity air conditioning system is provided for operations in both hot and cold environments as well as a removable deck shelter to provide both shade and weather protection for deck operations.
For logistics purposes, the boats feature a deck rail system for stowage of on deck payloads as well as seating for up to 10 people for humanitarian aid. For heavy lift, a modular hydraulic crane is fitted to the afterdeck as well as a lightweight gunwale mounted davit.
The Royal Navy will use 8 of the SEA Class Boats at Britannia Royal Naval College for Officer Training. SEA Class Boats have replaced the ageing Picket Boats giving the officers under training a modern boat to learn leadership and seamanship skills. These boats are better suited to operating in open water and facilitate new training routines away from the confines of a riverine environment. They have integrated training and classroom facilities for 12 students with networked PC workstations and video presentation facilities, messing area, whole body vibration and shock mitigating seating, along with two bunk compartments overnight berthing for 9 students and the 4 crew.
All Officer Training Boats (OTBs) have been assembled at AEUKs Horizon production facility and have now been delivered to BRNC, the Royal Navy Training College.
HMS Prince of Wales will use 3 of the SEA Class Boats for passenger transfers. The boats are able to transport up to 31 passengers in whole body vibration, shock mitigating seating at speeds of over 25 knots which will provide a more comfortable, safe and less fatiguing journey. These exceptionally manoeuvrable, stable boats will support the carrier in its activities worldwide and will be deployed from the carrier using a Davit system which will launch the boat from a dedicated boat bay, using a motorised twin arm cable deployment system.
Six of the boats are fitted with Dive Support Modules and offer a comprehensive diving capability for both operational and training use. They are fitted with a high volume HP air charging and air storage capability and can concurrently support two full surface supply dive teams as well as a number of divers operating Self-Contained Air Diving Equipment (SCADE). The Dive module is equipped with whole body vibration seating for 10 passengers and a twin diver air control panel as well as diver CCTV panels.
The final variants of the workboat range are the Survey Motorboats. These are both fitted with fixed, hull mounted multi-beam sonars as well as the S2094 towed side-scan sonar system. The larger variant features 6 survey workstations within the module and the smaller variant with 4.
SEA Class re-roled for Project Wilton
The first of the SEA Class workboats has already been re-roled to become a USV for the UKs Project Wilton which is delivering an autonomous route survey capability for the Royal Navy. This capability uses AEUK’s autonomous ARCIMS USV RNMB HARRIER and the modified SEA Class workboat, now named RNMB HEBE. The USV was re-roled to include AEUKs advanced autonomy controller (RCS) and fitted with a bespoke module to provide an afloat mission command centre providing the Users the ability to remotely control HARRIER from HEBE as well as being able to extend the control range of HARRIER from an ashore command centre by routing the USV control through HEBE. In addition, HEBE is fitted with an automated launch and recovery system for a Klein Max-View 600 towed side scan sonar. Both HEBE and HARRIER provide excellent route survey capabilities with the ability to launch and recover a range of different mission systems including side-scan sonars, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs).
SEA Class for maritime Police duties
Another example of the flexibility and rapid re-role capability of the SEA Class workboats is the recent re-purposing of a workboat to allow it to be used in a maritime police patrol role. An available workboat was identified in the Vahana workboat project as a suitable platform and the modification was completed within a five day period at AEUK’s Horizon production facility by AEUK’s highly flexible project team. The work included the application of a police ‘battenberg’ vinyl wrap to change its external appearance to align with that of the other Maritime Police Unit boats as well as the installation of role specific equipment such as lights, sirens and specialist radios.