The spirit of Ben Lexcen in Navy USV


The Russian invasion of Ukraine has shown just how quickly new defence systems can be developed when they need to be – bypassing long, convoluted and expensive development programmes in peacetime.

Well, Australian Defence Force personnel has developed a naval uncrewed surface vessel (USV) in just 14 weeks and on a limited budget, with a driving force not a professor or business CEO but a humble Aircraftman.

According to Defence, Aircraftman Max Tesoriero (pictured, centre in blue camouflage uniform) always had a keen interest in designing and building boats, an interest he acquired as a child, building elaborate models with his father.

The communication electronics technician was able to put this interest into practice working collaboratively with Navy personnel to deliver an uncrewed surface vessel, launched in June at HMAS Cerberus for Navy Engineering Week.

Using his knowledge of electronics and propulsion systems, Aircraftman Tesoriero helped design and deliver the USV as part of the Innovation (Robotics Autonomous Systems – Artificial Intelligence) Project Challenge, undertaken by members of an engineering officers application course.

The uncrewed vessel, named Lexcen – after the designer of the winged keel used on the Australia ll America’s Cup winner Ben Lexcen – was delivered within 14 weeks and on a limited budget.

Aircraftman Tesoriero said: “When I joined the RAAF I never thought I would work on an unmanned surface vessel but I really enjoyed being part of the project and getting exposure to another branch of Defence”.

Project manager Sub Lieutenant Ben Jackson (pictured, far left) said the project reflected the need to innovate in response to the changing face of naval warfare.

Sub Lieutenant Jackson said: “What we have provided with Lexcen is an initial platform, an avenue for development, training and delivery of autonomous surface vessel technologies for Navy and Defence.

“We see it as an enhancement to existing combat systems, rather than an entirely new capability – an extra piece of equipment to help with identifying, engaging and mitigating threats, without a risk to human crew.”

Sub Lieutenant Jackson said having Aircraftman Tesoriero on board for the project was of great benefit and highlighted how different branches of Defence can work together.

“It was really great to have an extra service come on board and help develop this capability.

“Max contributed significantly to the project through his knowledge and experience of electronics and connecting the various sub-system capabilities into Lexcen.

“The challenge now is passing on the knowledge we have gained to ensure innovation continues in this space, because innovation is vital to Defence as a means to maintain our transient advantage.”


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