Jetpacks could be used by the Royal Navy for ‘sailors to board enemy ships’

Alex Wilson from Gravity demonstrates a jetpack for defence secretary Gavin Williamson (Picture: PA)

Jetpacks could be used by the Royal Navy to allow sailors to board enemy ships, it has been suggested.

The capabilities of the suit, similar to that used by the superhero Iron Man, were demonstrated to defence secretary Gavin Williamson during a visit to a technology park in Portsmouth, Hampshire.

He announced a £75 million fund for the navy to develop drone mine-hunters and a hub to develop new tech, but was somewhat taken by the demonstration of the jet suit.

It was piloted by Alex Wilson of private company Gravity, who flew the £340,000 jetpack using handheld turbines.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Mr Williamson asked Mr Wilson: “Can you just imagine doing an assault on to a ship?”

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (right) meets Alex Wilson from Gravity during a visit to the Portsdown Technology Park in Portsmouth (Picture: PA)

The defence secretary said the navy could perform a “much more discrete insertion” using the jetpacks.

He added: “Maybe if I can have a go in future there could be a bigger order.”

The £75 million will enable the creation of the two autonomous ships which will be fitted with “cutting-edge sonars to enable remote mine-hunting at higher range, speed and accuracy in the Gulf”.

The money will also help found a joint military and industry “accelerator” hub which has been named NavyX.

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A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: “The Royal Navy’s new autonomy and lethality accelerator will look to overhaul and turbocharge the way the Royal Navy buys the latest technology, streamlining the process and creating a brand-new facility where industry, military and academia can test, assess and purchase new equipment.”

Mr Williamson said: “Today’s announcement will not only allow the Royal Navy to rapidly harness dynamic, cutting-edge equipment at speed, but also ensure they can outpace adversaries both on the water and the sea floor.

“Technology is moving faster than ever, and with the defence landscape rapidly evolving, we must ensure our armed forces are continually pushing the boundaries at the forefront of this change.”

Royal Navy personel demonstrating their underwater drone during a visit to the Portsdown Technology Park in Portsmouth (Picture: PA)
Defence secretary Gavin Williamson during a visit to the Portsdown Technology Park in Portsmouth (Picture: PA)

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “From the invention of the steam catapult and aircraft carrier, to the first use of sonars and torpedoes, the Royal Navy has a strong pedigree in the development, testing and introduction of new technologies that help us keep our country safe.

“Across the generations, our willingness to embrace innovation has kept us one step ahead of our adversaries, and to assure our continued success on operations into the future it is vital that the Royal Navy continues to be equipped with the latest cutting-edge capabilities we need to address the rapidly evolving challenges that pose a threat to our national interests around the globe.”

Mr Williamson made the announcement during a visit to QinetiQ’s Portsdown Technology Park, which is building the UK Centre of Excellence for Maritime Mission Systems.

The secretary of state was shown examples of state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles including the flying suit, hoverbikes, vehicles, vessels, and drones.

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