The US Navy tested an 11-foot naval drone capable of firing missiles at enemy vessels off the Maryland coast last week. The missile system and launcher were supplied by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.
A Friday Wired report indicated that the navy has been working on the project since 2007. Despite the successful test, which saw the craft fire missiles at dummy targets up to two miles away, a fleet of naval drones is still “years and many more tests” away.
Although aerial drones have become a common facet of modern warfare, the remotely controlled inflatable craft is the first naval drone with anti-ship capability tested by the US.
The drone “could be used in a number of applications including harbor security, defensive operations against fast attack craft and swarm scenarios, which is of primary concern for the Navy,” Mark Moses, manager of the drone project, told Wired. “However, it is probably most effective when targets try and hide among commercial vessels — for example, congested waterways.”
A Yedioth Ahronoth report on the test Sunday speculated that such a vessel could be used effectively by the US military in the Persian Gulf, where both African-based pirates and the Iranian navy use a variety of small, swift boats that could be countered by a drone without putting US sailors’ lives at risk.