November 12th, 2012
03:00 AM ET

Tests may pave way for future missile-firing drone boats

By Jennifer Rizzo

Future unmanned ships could be retrofitted with missile-firing systems following successful prototype tests, but how long before the technology can be deployed remains a question, U.S. Navy officials say.

Six long-range missiles were fired during three days of testing last month, marking the first time missiles have been fired from any unmanned ship.

The seafaring drone, called the NUWC-4, is a smaller craft developed to defend against a potential attack of ships swarming toward naval vessels, according to the Navy. Terrorists and pirates have been known to use these tactics.

The "project was developed in response to recent world events involving swarms of small attack craft, as well as threat assessments outlined in recent studies conducted by the Naval Warfare Development Command," said NAVSEA Special Warfare Program Manager Capt. Thomas D. Gajewski. "Technology demonstrated in this project can provide a capability to combat terrorists who use small low-cost vehicles as weapons platforms."

The smaller size of the unmanned ship allows it to operate fairly close to shore in shallow water. A larger vessel would use multiple missile-armed systems to protect itself in a congested waterway or in harbor defense in model scenarios, according to Mark Moses, an assistant program manager at Naval Special Warfare.

He says the missile precision represents an advancement.

"Most of these craft have small-caliber weapons systems," Moses said, referring not only to the unmanned ship but manned vessels of a similar size. "Essentially, the largest weapon system a combatant craft has is a .50-caliber (machine gun), which is not the most accurate weapon," Moses said. "This new capability could potentially provide the war fighter with a more accurate system, since its effective range is five times that of current systems."

In the test, the missiles hit a target over two miles away, but the system could be equipped with longer-distance missiles.

The on-land operator is able to track a missile while it's in flight, see what the missile sees and divert it toward another target if needed.

The prototype is technologically ready to go, pending a few more tests, but Department of Defense money and resources would have to be allocated for the weapon program before it can officially join the fleet.

The testing was part of a joint project between the United States and Israel as part of a counterterrorism effort. The missile weapon system and missiles were both manufactured by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd., an Israeli company.

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Filed under: drones • Military • Navy • Technology • weapons
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Jack Bravyak

    Could I use this for Duck Hunting?

    November 17, 2012 at 9:59 am | Reply
  2. lulz

    drones....made with chinese materials...

    this is too good.

    November 12, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Reply
  3. Tembisa

    Reblogged this on World Chaos and commented:
    Add your thoughts here... (optional)

    November 12, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
  4. Sammy

    If we are hearing about it, they probably already have the capability.

    November 12, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  5. Portland tony

    If wars of the future are to be limited in scope...destroying the enemy's offensive capabilities and not actually occupying or "conquering a nation then these types of cheap weapons will work. Today, the potential of war with Iran is of this type. Bomb or destroy their war making capabilities, but no thought of allied boots on the ground.

    November 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  6. some guy

    Geez , I thought , the navy had crusiers and frigates and gun boats to do the same thing. I thought the NAVY had boats and ships for combating ...ships and boats. Whats next ? who will protect these costly Robot Drone Boats ? More smaller drone boats at a million a piece. Who will protect those boats ? more boats........

    Heres an Idea, grow some nuts and let the sailors man their machine guns and use the darn gatling gun apart from military excersizes and demonstrations. In today's world mordern military's motto is : i cant do it, govt. please buy me this.

    Guys in WW2 and Vietnam got the job done dint they ? You mean to tell me a modern destroyer cant take care of a few small armed power boats ?

    November 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  7. Sasquach

    Eventually machines will kill machines and no blood will be shed. "How boring", say the war mongers, "it's BLOOD we want to see! Not greasy cogs!"

    November 12, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  8. some guy

    John Connor's Mom, Sarah Connor in the Terminator was right. She was only wrong about the dates.

    November 12, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  9. George Patton

    Good grief, now we can slaughter even more people than we could before with this new technology. Hip, hip, hurray or should we all yell SIEG HEIL?!?!?! Let's hope that either the Russians or the Chinese will catch up sooner rather than later. Now we all see just where our hard earned tax money goes!!!

    November 12, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
    • General Sherman

      Thank you, George. You hit the nail on the head! Besides, there is absolutely no honor in using those cursed planes to murder people as this unsavory policy only serves to further blacken the reputation of our great country!

      November 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  10. Anand Yadav

    No matter how much progress they make in the robot warfare. In every future war there will be higher casualties on both sides.

    November 12, 2012 at 11:06 am | Reply
    • dingleberrydewdrop

      "Anand Yadav- "No matter how much progress they make in the robot warfare. In every future war there will be higher casualties on both sides."

      What do you mean by this? Please defend your argument. As life saving technology improves, I believe we are seeing fewer casualties in each war than the last.

      November 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Reply
  11. willy

    Mechanized warfare. A concept that started with a person picking up a stick. The weapons change. It's still war.

    November 12, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
  12. creanP

    What, because drones are working so successfully at the moment?

    November 12, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
  13. readitnot

    Robot war is the future. All the worst science fiction nightmares of my youth are becoming real in my lifetime.

    November 12, 2012 at 9:38 am | Reply
    • Hugo Corv

      Ssssh! They're actually not "robots". They're just controlled remotely :)

      November 12, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Reply

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