Israeli defense company Elbit Systems is turning some heads with its robot warship, the Seagull. The unmanned surface vehicle (USV) operates autonomously and is capable of protecting the maritime environment from underwater threats such as mines or submarines. In a military first, the vessel this week successfully fired a lightweight torpedo via its remote Mission Control System (MCS).
The Seagull is a 12-meter-long maritime vessel that is modular in nature, with support for either one or two secondary vessels. These vessels can be controlled simultaneously via a command center, which can be situated on a nearby ship or a location on the shore. Similar to other self-driving vehicles, the Seagull has an autonomous navigation system with a built-in collision avoidance system to aid in the delicate task of navigation. It also is capable of holding enough fuel for a multi-day mission. This flexibility and autonomy allows the vessel to be outfitted for a variety of different missions, including mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, and electronic warfare.
The Seagull’s first torpedo test launch was held in Israel’s Haifa port and was the first time an unmanned ship ever fired a torpedo. “This new and important capability has, to date, only been available to navies through manned vehicles,” said Elbit Systems’ vice president of the naval systems business line ISTAR Division Ofer Ben-Dov.
The ability to carry and deploy lightweight torpedos extends the capabilities of the unmanned ship, making it useful for both mine detection and offshore security details. Elbit Systems built the Seagull for mine and submarine detection, but these tasks are just the tip of the iceberg. With its newfound weaponry, the USV also can serve to patrol offshore oil and gas rigs operating in Israeli waters as well as protect the Israeli coastline from the growing threat of terrorism in the area.
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