First Torpedo Test Launch from Drone Boat

Image courtesy Elbit Systems

Published Jun 28, 2016 8:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

Israeli firm Elbit Systems has completed first trials of a torpedo launch system on its Seagull autonomous Unmanned Surface Vessel platform. 

The tests were performed off Haifa, and were intended as basic demonstrations of the boat's ability to launch a light torpedo munition (without targeting). Ofer Ben-Dov, vice president of the firm’s naval systems business line, said that "the test highlighted Seagull’s unique capacity to detect and engage submarines, in addition to its ability to detect and destroy sea mines – all using the same multi-mission USV system in modular configurations.”

The 40-foot self-navigating launch is intended for a number of military and civilian missions, including high risk ASW and MCM, electronic warfare, maritime domain awareness and hydrography. It has a stabilized, remote-operated .50-caliber machine gun and sufficient fuel supplies for several days of independent endurance. 

Ben-Dov has also touted the cost-effectiveness of the firm's unmanned platform. "We are witnessing the proliferation of submarines, both conventional and nuclear, and sea mines. The cost and risk of dealing with these threats is high,” he said at a prototype unveiling in February.

"Until now dealing with submarines was carried out by heavy craft such as missile boats and fighter aircraft and helicopters at operative costs of hundreds of millions of dollars," Elbit systems executive vice president Elad Aharonson told media. "The USV lowers costs for these missions by many tens of times. It can seek out enemy submarines, pursue them over large distances and turn them into prey."

Elbit is not the only organization pursuing autonomous ASW vessels. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently christened the self-driving ship Sea Hunter, a prototype intended to test autonomous technology and the possibility of "continuous trail" submarine tracking.