Smart ship project for European navies, driven by Estonia, kicks off

  • 2024-01-18
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – During the next four years, starting January 2024, the Estonian Center for Defense Investment (RKIK) and Estonian company Baltic Workboats will lead a Europe-wide defense cooperation project that is intended to result in the completion of the prototype of a semi-autonomous modular vessel for the navies of European countries.

Baltic Workboats is leading a consortium of 23 companies and research institutions from countries such as France, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Spain and Estonia. RKIK meanwhile is in charge of the cooperation of the participating nations, RKIK said in a press release. 

The total budget of the project, titled EUROGUARD, or European Goal-based Multi-mission Autonomous Naval Reference Platform Development, amounts to 95 million euros, with 65 million euros from the European Defense Fund (EDF) and 30 million euros from the participating countries and companies.

"Our common interest is to advance shipbuilding technologies and to develop a universal vessel platform that can be modularly adapted according to missions," said Ats Janno, head of the project office at RKIK. "The fact that we have been entrusted with a leading role in this kind of European defense industry synergy project shows Estonia's excellence at the forefront of innovation."

"The prototype will definitely need further development, but the closer we get to a competitive and comprehensive result in military, technical and economic terms, the greater the future vitality of the project," Janno added. 

Margus Vanaselja, CEO of Baltic Workboats, described participation in the project and leadership of the consortium as both a great honor as well a huge responsibility that allows Baltic Workboats to demonstrate its cutting edge technology and competence as a shipbuilder as well as learn new technologies.

The project is divided into three blocks -- the development of a new fleet base architecture, the creation of a physical prototype of the vessel and its testing in late 2027, and the development of a data-centric autonomous ship architecture.

The specific capabilities of the prototype will be determined through multi-year research and development activities, but in general, the vessel should be capable of autonomous navigation, obstacle and threat detection, collision avoidance, and other mission-specific tasks. The prototype must adhere to the principle of modularity, allowing it to be assembled according to specific needs or tasks. Innovation is also expected in the propulsion system, with environmental sustainability being an important keyword, Baltic Workboats said.

The EDF was set up to support defense related research, development and innovation in the EU in order to increase the competitiveness of the European defense industry and enhance cooperation between companies and research and development institutions in the field of defense across Europe. In the previous EDF cooperation project iMUGS, Estonia led a 32.6 million euro project aimed at developing a standard solution for a European unmanned ground system.