30 Oct 2023
by Amy McLellan

Engine as a Weapon: A timely return for this technical conference

With war an unfortunate backdrop, naval engineers, defence leaders and weapons experts are gathering for this year’s Engine as a Weapon conference. 

Recent weeks have sadly led to much talk of war. At the time of writing, Israel was amassing tanks and troops on the borders of the besieged Gaza Strip and there are warnings of further escalation.

With fears of further regional spill-over, the USS Dwight D Eisenhower and its associated strike group was reported to be heading for a ‘long-scheduled deployment’ in the Mediterranean, where the USS Gerald R Ford aircraft carrier had already been deployed.

The UK government also announced it was dispatching a Royal Navy task group “as a contingency measure to support humanitarian efforts”.

All of this comes against the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea, where the Russian fleet has recently taken some heavy fire in a war that has ground on far longer than many analysts expected in early 2022.  

Against this backdrop it is, perhaps, appropriate that naval engineers, defence leaders and weapons experts are researching and finetuning papers for the upcoming Engine as a Weapon technical conference in Bristol, UK.

Returning in person after a Covid-19 related lull, the two-day event plans to explore the ‘art-of-the-possible’ when it comes to exploiting technologies for warfighting advantage. 

“It should be a very thought-provoking event,” said the Ministry of Defence’s Commander Richard Hudson, who’s been impressed by the quality of papers submitted by industry partners.

“There are some technologies and emerging weapons that we need to be thinking about exploiting now, and that means making sure we futureproof ships for these weapons.”

Among topics under discussion will be the challenge of meeting the energy demands of new weapons, including directed energy weapons (such as lasers), railguns that use electromagnetic forces to impart a very high kinetic energy to a projectile rather than using conventional propellants, and hypersonic guided weapons systems.

Meeting the power and thermal management requirements of these technologies will be under discussion at this conference, which will bring together a wide range of naval experts, engineers, scientists, consultants and academia.  

There are speakers from GE, Babcock, BMT Global, TU Delft and the MoD plus many more, and while the conference will attract senior leaders, engineers and consultants, Commander Hudson is hopeful that students and early career professionals will also attend.  

“We’re really hoping to bring forward the future generation,” he explained, pointing out that many papers will push the boundaries of new technologies. These include exploring artificial intelligence and autonomy, quantum computing, cryptography and advanced networks. 

Papers on delivering power to command, looking at issues such as electrification and modularity, are also set to attract attention, while it’s clearly impossible to have any forward-looking debate that doesn’t tackle issues such as sustainability and managing development that’s also aligned with net zero goals.  

Chaired by Cdr Richard Huson and with keynote speakers including Sarah Kenny OBE, CEO of BMT and Rear Admiral Paul Carroll, plus a tour, drinks and gala dinner aboard Brunel’s historic SS Great Britain, this is an event not to be missed by anyone interested in naval warfare - past, present and future. 

IMarEST events: Engine as a Weapon X 

Back in person, this two-day event will present exciting papers exploring the opportunities and challenges of manufacturing, integrating and powering new technologies, from quantum computing to hypersonic GW systems.  

What: Engine as a Weapon X: Exploiting Technologies for Warfighting Advantage 

When: Tuesday/Wednesday, 28-29th, November 2023 

Where: SS Great Britain, Great Western Dockyard, Bristol 

For more information, contact: [email protected]

Related topics