NavyPODS – Navy Persistent Operational Deployment System – is a concept being taken forward by the service’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO). An off-the-shelf 20 ft ISO container has been set up in the Naval Zone at DSEI to demonstrate the NavyPODS vision.
Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Nick Hine unveiled the NavyPODS concept earlier this year. “We have always sought modularity as the nirvana of capability flexibility but have never been able to afford it,” he told an International Institute for Strategic Studies conference in June.
“Rather than ‘design modularity in’ we have chosen to design it out. These [NavyPODS] will be bespoke containers housing new ways of delivery in mine hunting, survey, air systems, communications, lethality, medical and more. This means that all platforms have the ability to become upgradeable with the arrival of a new [module].”
Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Nick Hine
According to OCTO, the ultimate objective of the NavyPODS programme is to develop a range of platform-agnostic deployable mission modules, based on an ISO equivalent container, each containing a system payload or payload suite able to contribute towards a specific capability. NavyPODS could include the capacity to host the NELSON data platform in a pre-installed NELSON Edge Cloud Server: Programme NELSON is the RN’s in-house data platform and software house for the rapid exploitation of digital data and artificial intelligence.
The RN intends that NavyPODS modules should be applicable to a range of platforms, including the new Type 26 and Type 31 frigates, amphibious ships, offshore patrol vessels, auxiliary ships, and Future Commando Force elements ashore. It is envisaged that delivery – either ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore – will be via autonomous stabilised platforms, or using a heavy-lift unmanned air system.
A NavyPODS request for information was issued in June this year. Industry has been asked to consider what sort of technologies and capabilities could be packaged within NavyPODS in order to help the MoD understand requirements for industry standards and processes for procurement, and enable the development of a procurement strategy.
In parallel, the OCTO team is in the process of procuring a handful of containers to support test and evaluation activity. Alongside the commercial standard container being shown at DSEI, a further four military-spec containers will be outfitted with exemplar mission suites/payloads representative of what could be employed in service. These payloads include reachback communications for the control of autonomous systems, a future aviation module, and a ‘factory in the box’ additive manufacturing facility.