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by Staff reporter
02 June 2021
Royal Navy uses artificial intelligence for the first time in test off the west coast of Scotland

On board NHS Dragon - Image credit: MOD

Royal Navy uses artificial intelligence for the first time in test off the west coast of Scotland

The Royal Navy has made its first at-sea use of artificial intelligence (AI) to track supersonic missile attacks, as part of a NATO exercise taking place off the west coast of Scotland.

HMS Dragon, a destroyer, and frigate HMS Lancaster are testing how two AI software packages can support personnel in reacting to missile threats.

Startle monitors airspace and generates alerts and recommendations, while Sycoiea builds on this to identify incoming missiles and recommend weapons to deal with them.

The AI software is designed to help personnel react faster, rather than replacing humans.

“I was able identify missile threats more quickly than usual and even outwit the operations room,” said above water tactician leading seaman Sean Brooks on HMS Lancaster.

“Observing Startle and Sycoiea augment the human warfighter in real time against a live supersonic missile threat was truly impressive – a glimpse into our highly-autonomous future,” added the ship’s weapon engineer officer lieutenant commander Adam Leveridge.

The tests involve staff from the UK Government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) and suppliers Roke, CGI and BAE Systems.

They are taking place as part of NATO’s Formidable Shield exercise, which is held every two years.

The 2021 exercise, which runs from 15 May to 3 June, is primarily taking place at the MoD Hebrides range managed by QinetiQ and based in Benbecula, South Uist and St Kilda.

It involves 3,300 personnel on 15 ships and dozens of aircraft from 10 countries.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack said: “It's vital that our brave and highly skilled armed forces stay ahead of the game for the security of the United Kingdom and our allies.

“The Royal Navy’s use of AI for the first time at sea is an important development in ensuring readiness to tackle threats we may face.

“I'm proud to see that two Scottish-built Royal Navy vessels are at the heart of this exercise in the waters off the Hebrides.”

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