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Austal Australia completes sea trials of future patrol boat autonomy trial Sentinel.

| Naval News Navy 2024

According to a PR published by Austal Australia on April 23, 2024, the company has recently completed the sea trials of Sentinel, a remotely operated and autonomous vessel, as part of the Patrol Boat Autonomy Trial (PBAT).
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 PBAT Sentinel, formerly HMAS Maitland. (Picture source: Austal)

The sea trials, which took place off the coast of Western Australia, were executed over March and April 2024. These included a series of remote and autonomous navigation tests, using the Advanced Maritime Autonomy Software developed by Greenroom Robotics. The trials involved the decommissioned Armidale-class patrol boat, now renamed Sentinel, which was modified extensively to accommodate autonomous operations.

The PBAT project is supported by the Commonwealth of Australia and represents a collaboration between Austal Australia, Greenroom Robotics, Trusted Autonomous Systems (TAS), and the Warfare Innovation Navy (WIN) Branch of the Royal Australian Navy. The project aims to integrate autonomous technologies into a full-sized vessel, establishing a proof-of-concept for future optionally crewed or autonomous naval operations.

Throughout the trial, the Sentinel was modified for enhanced operational capabilities, including changes to its navigation, communications, and surveillance systems. These modifications were essential for the safe execution of autonomous and remote operations, under the scrutiny of a minimal onboard team from International Maritime Services (IMS), ensuring rapid response to any operational deviations.

Paddy Gregg, CEO of Austal Limited, emphasized the trial's success in demonstrating the effectiveness of local autonomous technologies within a major naval vessel. He noted the potential for further collaborations with the Navy, particularly in advancing autonomous technology for large-scale naval projects like the upcoming Large Optionally Crewed Surface Vessels (LOSV).

HMAS Maitland

The PBAT Sentinel, previously known as HMAS Maitland (ACPB 88) and named after the city of Maitland in New South Wales, belongs to the Armidale-class of patrol boats operated by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

These vessels measure 56.8 meters (186 ft) in length, feature a beam of 9.7 meters (32 ft), a draught of 2.7 meters (8 ft 10 in), and have a standard displacement of 270 tons.
Designed to achieve a top speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph), the Armidale-class patrol boats are powered by twin propeller shafts linked to MTU 16V M70 diesel engines. They boast a cruising range of 3,000 nautical miles (5,600 km; 3,500 mi) at a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph). These capabilities enable them to effectively monitor Australia’s remote territories, with an operational patrol duration of 21 days and a potential endurance of up to 42 days.

The primary armament consists of a Rafael Typhoon stabilised gun mount, equipped with a 25-millimetre (0.98 in) M242 Bushmaster autocannon. Additional firepower includes two 12.7-millimetre (0.50 in) machine guns. For boarding missions, each vessel carries two 7.2-meter (24 ft) rigid-hulled inflatable boats (RHIBs), propelled by waterjets.

The Maitland was decommissioned on 29 April 2022 and subsequently selected for transformation into an uncrewed autonomous vessel as part of an artificial intelligence trial.

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