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BAE Systems Applies Fly-by-Wire Technology to Submarines

Development of Active Vehicle Control Management for DREADNOUGHT-class

BAE Systems is applying decades of flight controls expertise underwater to the UK’s next-generation submarine, the DREADNOUGHT-class. This innovative approach involves adapting controls that are usually used in fly-by-wire aircraft and applying them in a marine environment.

The complete Active Vehicle Control Management (AVCM) system will oversee all major aspects of the submarines’ manoeuvring capability to the highest levels of safety and reliability, similar to existing systems on modern aircraft. In fly-by-wire, electronic systems control aircraft movement; engineers are now developing electronics to control the submarine’s heading, pitch, depth and buoyancy, among other critical elements.

Jon Tucker, Director for Maritime Controls at BAE Systems Controls and Avionics, explained that “With over 50 years of avionics experience, we already have a great understanding of how to develop complex control systems for hi-tech platforms. However, taking our technology underwater brings exciting new challenges.”

Work has already begun, involving over 130 highly skilled jobs in Rochester, with that number expected to grow. Significant investment has been made at the site, and the programme marks the first time that major Royal Navy work has taken place in the Medway Towns since the Chatham Dockyard closure over 25 years ago. The innovation has been developed in Rochester with engineers in the company’s Electronic Systems business working closely with colleagues from the Maritime and Air sectors to develop a world-class system as part of BAE Systems’ Active Vehicle Control One-Team. Engineers will continue to develop the technologies with a view to expanding its applications to both other underwater and surface vessels.

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