What to expect at Engine as a Weapon X

What to expect at the 10th EAAW symposium at the SS Great Britain in Bristol.

In November this year, the SS Great Britain in Bristol will host Engine as a Weapon X (EAAW X), focused on cutting-edge naval technology. 

Ahead of the 10th instalment of the symposium, Marine Professional spoke to creator Matt Bolton. The naval service consultant is also Chief Executive of UKNEST and chair of the IMarEST’s Naval Engineering SIG (NESIG), which he launched in 2019. 

First held in 2004, Matt says the occasion is the only learned society event to unite the professional disciplines of marine engineering and combat systems to facilitate knowledge transfer and technical discussion. The two-day event is a key date in his SIG’s calendar.

  Engine as a Weapon X Matt Bolton

Matt Bolton BEng MSc CEng FIMarEST FIMechE

The evolution of EAAW

EAAW was set up to explore the opportunities and challenges of equipment and complex systems at the cutting-edge of naval technology and the future of naval warfare. “Two decades ago when marine engineers were keen to exploit the benefits of integrated full electric propulsion, and combat system engineers were contemplating high energy weapons, such as railgun, with enormous power demands and heating loads, EAAW was established to unite these communities to establish a shared understanding of their challenges and opportunities," Matt says.

While the basic premise of EAAW has remained the same, there has been some inevitable evolution over the years. “It continues to be essential that marine systems and weapon/sensor specialists engage to exploit technical possibilities and optimise warfighting capabilities. Integrating complex systems has always been challenging in naval design. This theme of marine and combat system integration runs through all EAAW symposia, remaining important as electrification and digitalisation bring the two disciplines ever closer together.” 

Themes to expect at EAAW X 

Attendees will be kept abreast of the latest technologies relevant to the naval sector, including advances in power and propulsion technology, energy storage, power electronics, high power effectors, sensors and digital networks. Naval engineers can expect to hear about advancing digital technologies, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and what edge computing or digital applications in support and maintenance can offer maritime defence. 

“Cyber considerations are ever-present across the platform and combat system interface, and disruptors such as quantum computing are in the horizon," Matt says. "New compact and efficient power sources will also be prominent, as will the exploitation of offboard systems as both sensors and effectors, including their deployment, utilisation and recovery.”

Other topics will include the intersection of combat and marine systems – from adaptable platforms, mission modularity and autonomous systems – and how advances in weapon systems such as hypersonic missiles might affect warship design. 

An iconic venue for diverse discussions

The venue will be Brunel’s SS Great Britain in Bristol. Reportedly described as ‘the greatest experiment since the creation’ upon her launch in 1843, thanks to her huge size and integration of a powerful 1000hp steam engine and screw propellor into an iron hull, the ship will be an inspiring setting for the proceedings. 

With over 200 representatives from international naval communities, NESIG members from all backgrounds can learn from the speakers and from each other. “Naval engineering is an extremely broad church," says Matt. "However, technical innovation, system integration and capability optimisation are common themes for almost all of us, wherever in the world we are.” This even applies to members working outside of naval engineering, as challenges of complex system integration and opportunities in electrification and digitalisation are not unique to the naval sector.

There is still plenty time to gear up for the two-day event – the diversity of topics, rapid pace of technological change and iconic venue means it's not one to miss. 

Save the date! Register today for the two-day event. 

New to NESIG? Learn about NESIG’s values of shared understanding and join the SIG

Curious about the autonomous technologies highlighted? Dive into what uncrewed surface vehicles can teach us.

Clarissa Wright

Clarissa Wright is a freelance science journalist and Editor of NatureVolve.