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15 novembre 2012 4 15 /11 /novembre /2012 17:40



14/11/2012 by Paul Fiddian - Armed Forces International's Lead Reporter


Next-generation unmanned ships could be armed with missiles but it's not yet certain when such systems could be operationally-deployed.


That's according to US Navy officials, in a statement made after a series of recent test-firings involving the prototype NUWC-4 drone ship.




Never before had missiles been launched from externally-controlled sea vessels, so the USV PEM (Unmanned Surface Vehicle Precision Engagement Module) programme broke new ground. The NUWC-4 design was conceived as a small craft, able to be deployed against incoming fleet threats. Operating primarily in shallow waters, its gun would have enough reach to strike targets located more than two miles way.


NUWC-4 Unmanned Surface Vehicle


The NUWC-4 unmanned surface vehicle missile firing tests served to confirm this two mile range and, during them, the missile operators could track the weapons' flightpaths and reroute them, if required.


"The USV PEM project was developed in response to recent world events which have increased the concern over swarms of small attack craft, as well as threat assessments outlined in recent studies conducted by the Naval Warfare Development Command", Mark Moses - Naval Special Warfare Assistant Program Manager at NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) - explained in a press release.


He continued: "The study punctuates the effectiveness of these swarm attacks against both military re-supply ships and naval vessels. Technology demonstrated in this project can provide a capability to combat terrorists who use small low-cost vehicles as weapons platforms."


First USV Missile Launches


The NUWC-4 is the US military's first unmanned maritime warfare-capable design, augmenting the other robotic technologies already in service.


The first USV missile launches took place at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. Patuxent River houses the US Navy's Test Pilot School and hosts regular naval technology trials.


Officials say that, if the next series of planned NUWC-4 missile launches are successful, the system's theoretically ready for US Navy service. However, they add, the new unmanned surface vehicle can't be inducted until the US Department of Defense invests more into the programme.


Armed Forces International will revisit this programme in future News Items.

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