He can’t walk on water, but ‘rocket man’ Richard Browning can hop and glide over it as he demonstrated how the Royal Navy might use such a suit. The inventor, test pilot and former Royal Marines Reservist headed into the Solent with fast patrol boat HMS Dasher and a couple of boats to test his jet-powered body suit over the water for the first time.
The real-life Ironman has demonstrated the potential of his jet-powered suit to the Royal Marines, joined them for amphibious landings and wowed the crowds at Yeovilton at the Fleet Air Arm’s annual show. But the flier and his Gravity Industries team wanted to see how the suit might work over the ocean – using the patrol boat as his test bed.
A small landing/launch pad was set up on Dasher’s forecastle as he leapt between the boat and two accompanying rib speed boats buzzing around the Solent off Portsmouth Harbour at speeds of up to 20 knots.
The trials proved that the suit works over a large body of water and that the pilot can land and take-off with relative ease from boats or ships moving at speed – even with the limited space on the upper deck of a P2000 patrol vessel.
“Being in command of Dasher while the Gravity team were onboard was very different and a new challenge which I was honoured to take on,” said Lieutenant Lauren Webber. “Richard made taking off and landing on the P2000 look so easy, despite the ship travelling at 20 knots.”
The rocket man himself said the work with Dasher proved extremely successful and laid the foundations for further tests at sea from some of the Royal Navy’s larger warships. “It was a pleasure testing our suit with the Royal Navy, offering a unique opportunity to achieve another milestone in the development of our technology,” he said.
Commander Milly Ingham, Commander of Portsmouth’s 1st Patrol Boat Squadron – the mother unit for 14 P2000 craft – said working with the jet suit built on the RN’s long-standing tradition of being at the cutting edge of technological developments from the days of steam through to the world’s most advanced battleship, Dreadnought, and ASDIC – better known today as sonar – which was key to defeating the U-boat in World War 2.
“The Royal Navy has been at the leading edge of technology in defence for hundreds of years – we’re proud of our traditions but we continue to explore new ideas and concepts and push the boundaries of naval warfare,” she added. “P2000s only have a small landing area so it provided a challenge for the test pilot and the Ship’s Company very much enjoyed seeing the ‘rocket man’ in action.”
The Maritime Executive – Royal Navy News