Navy Launches Missiles From Unmanned Surface Vessel
By Mike McCarthy
The Navy has successfully launched missiles and hit targets from an unmanned surface vessel as it seeks to transition the weaponizing of unmanned aerial vehicles to the sea, the service said Friday. The firing of six Rafael Spike missles earlier in the week was carried out by the Chief of Naval Operation’s Expeditionary Warfare Division and
the Naval Sea Systems Command’s Naval Special Warfare Program Office. It marked the first time the Navy has launched Spike missiles from the vehicle called the surface precision engagement module (USV PEM), a remotely operated boat 11 meters long and armed with missiles and a .50 caliber machine gun. The Navy said the demonstration "represents the first significant step forward in surface unmanned combat capability."
The Navy said it is developing the capability as the war in Afghanistan draws down and as the service focuses on regions where unconventional maritime threats exist, such as small boats. "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," said Mark Moses, the assistant program manager at NAVSEA for special warfare. "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," he added.
The demonstrator vessel aimed, fired and updated the missiles in flight. It was operated by onshore personnel. They missiles engaged stationary and moving targets as far as three kilometers away, the Navy said.