01:14 GMT06 May 2021
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    Williamson nonetheless rejected the notion such high-tech innovation would lead to humans being phased out of the Navy, stating automation wouldn’t "replace the sailor", but is designed to "free them up for more essential operations elsewhere".

    Controversial UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has suggested 'rocket suits' could be worn by Royal Navy sailors to ambush rival ships — despite aides later clarifying the technology was not in fact ready for frontline action.

    Williamson became passionate about jetpack-led combat operations after seeing a flying demonstration at a base in Portsmouth, where he unveiled a £75 million fund for new military technology, in particular two "autonomous mine-hunter vessels" and a programme dubbed Navy X to develop robotics for use at sea.

    Alex Wilson, a pilot from private company Gravity, flew in the air at the event using handheld turbines at the event, exciting Williamson's already feverish imagination. The £340,000 equipment has been likened to inventions seen in superhero franchise Iron Man, and is capable of blasting an individual up to 10,000ft in the air. Williamson, who had earlier been shown a selection of the navy's most advanced drone technology, said to Wilson: "Can you just imagine doing an assault on to a ship?"

    "A ship you need to regain control of? You can have 10 people in different places all at once and the first thing they'll know is when they hear a faint jet noise," a company representative clarified. Williamson thought the prospect "fantastic" and suggested he himself would like to give the device a try.

    "Imagine a world in which autonomous surface vessels tow ultra-modern synthetic aperture sonars at speeds to detect those deadly devices and then deploy unmanned underwater vehicles to destroy them. In many ways it sounds like science fiction, something we can only read about or watch on TV. But this is a reality we will make happy. Our investment will realise that ambition and that vision," Williamson said.


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    rocket suits, jet packs, military tech, military technology, Ministry of Defense (MoD), Royal Navy, Gavin Williamson, United Kingdom
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