According to the government, the UK military has signed a £15.4 million ($18.7 million) contract to purchase a crewless submarine the length of a London double-decker bus.
According to the Telegraph, the 40-foot-long, 17-tonne craft, called Cetus, will be given to the navy by 2024 and will be the first crewless submarine in the British fleet. It will be utilized to safeguard important national infrastructure and monitor subsea activity.
According to the Ministry of Defence, Cetus can cover 1,000 miles of the ocean floor in a single mission and has a maximum operational depth that exceeds the current submarine fleet. Furthermore, according to the press release, it will be the largest and most complex crewless submersible operated by a European fleet.
“This Extra Large Autonomous Underwater Vehicle is a capability step-change in our mission to dominate the underwater battlespace,” said First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key.
The announcement of the new British warship comes as the West assesses the threat posed by the mystery damage to the Nord Stream pipeline in September. The Nord Stream leak was considered to be the work of Russian saboteurs.
Former CIA Director John Brennan told CNN it was an “act of sabotage” and listed Russia as a suspect. At the same time, a British defense source stated the leak was most likely the result of a pre-planned attack utilizing remotely detonated explosives.
The importance of protecting the UK’s underwater space was highlighted in October when remote islands off the coast of Scotland were mysteriously cut off from the outside world, with phones and internet connections not working due to damage.
“To face the mounting challenges to our underwater infrastructure, the Royal Navy must be technologically advanced ahead of the competition. We have the necessary equipment to ensure the security of the United Kingdom and its allies,” said Defense Secretary Ben Wallace in response to the announcement of the new Navy vessel.