Navy Tests Unmanned Surface Weapon

The U.S. Navy recently launched several missiles for the first time from an unmanned surface vessel as part of an effort to combat small enemy boat attacks in the future.

The Chief of Naval Operation’s Expeditionary Warfare Division and the Naval Sea Systems Command’s Naval Special Warfare Program Office successfully launched six Rafael Spike missiles from an unmanned surface vessel precision engagement module (USV PEM) on Oct. 24th, according to a Navy press release.

The U.S. military has been able to launch missiles from unmanned airborne vehicles for several years, but this is the first time it’s been done from the USV PEM, a remotely operated, 33-foot boat armed with missiles and a .50 caliber machine gun.

“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 NAVSEA Naval Special Warfare Assistant Program Manager Mark Moses, in the release. “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.”

The demonstration is part of a joint project between the U.S. and Israel accomplished under an international agreement with the Combating Terrorist Tactics Support Office. The integration of the PEM into the USV was done with cooperation from the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Newport, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane and Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren.

The PEM, which aims, fires, and updates the missile in the flight, is operated by shore-based personnel. These personnel, sitting in a remote control center, use onboard sensors to control the boat and obtain and destroy targets. During the demonstration, they engaged stationary and moving targets out to 3.5 kilometers. The Spike missile uses electro-optic and infrared sensors to identify and lock onto the target.

“The fiber optic tether is ultra thin and is spooled up and uncoils automatically during flight,” said Moses “This allows the operator to view updated targeting information to the missile while it is in flight and to confirm the missile is tracking the intended target up to the moment of impact.”

23 Comments on "Navy Tests Unmanned Surface Weapon"

  1. Surprised we aren't using next gen TOW or something. Spikes are better, I guess.

    That said, I wonder if going with a F & F Javelin might be better.

    Additionally, these might provide the high speed intercept of small boats that the fleet could use, supplementing available helicopters.


  2. Brought to you by BLAMMO!

    Anybody find it interesting that the picture is from the FARS news agency?

  3. A ship drone controller…. A job in the navy for men who get sea sick LOL.

  4. stephen russell | October 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Reply

    Id add Minigun for sure aside the 50 cal MG.
    Maybe 20mm cannon mount.
    & then missiles in pre set modules
    Awesome idea.
    Or shoot mini torpedoes at swarm boats.

  5. Since the swarm boats probably will get off the first shots and they are very close to the big ships based upon past harrassment from them, where are these robot boats going to be. Looks like we need more machine guns and missile defense methods on the big ships for close-in surprise attacks.

  6. More and more technology operated by people sitting in an office chair somewhere far away from where things are getting blown up.

  7. Can someone please describe how they tow the lines behind these missiles? How are the lines not fried by the exhaust?

  8. This was aimed at iran no doubt.

  9. the photo is from Iranian news agency "Fras" !

  10. Matryoshka style.

    The Littoral Combat Ship will deploy its own unmanned Littoral Combat Ships. Perhaps that will be its sole mission: to deploy and tend Unmanned Littoral Combat Ships.

  11. Anyways, where is this photog from? The credit line says FARS…which is Iranian?

    Edit: Alleged image

  12. As with our aerial drones, Not being a communications specialist, but one weakness I see is the link between operator and drone. If a signal can be generated, it can be duplicated. One only has to use a powerful transmitter to drown out the signal, or over perhaps over-ride with a stronger signal to render the drone useless. Hope I am wrong.

  13. The new TOWs are RF-guided and unaffected by water. These boats are Israeli boats carring Israeli weapon systems. The boat is called the Protector.
    Nothing here that US Raytheon hasn’t produced, or can’t build.

  14. Anybody remember NLOS, part of Future Combat Systems? A ship cannister, multiple launch non-line of site missile program that was cancelled? This was to be on the LCS…got whacked.

  15. tasphol changpun | November 1, 2012 at 5:36 am | Reply


  16. Looks like we are coming one step closer to Robotic Army where no soldiers will be needed. Wow what will we do then?

  17. Its a picture of an Iranian small boat attack exercise. When they said "…part of an effort to combat small enemy boat attacks in the future." they should have added the phrase "like the one pictured above".

  18. Citizen of the world | November 1, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Reply

    Why use an unmanned boat to attack swarms of patrol boats, when you can use an unmanned plane?

  19. I alway wondered if US Navy was ever going buy into getting Protector Class USVs, they could load them up on a Amphib as command ship and launch them protect mourned ships or patrol along side them in the Gulf. In my younger years, ships i served on kept getting bit too close to Iranian coast line, and suddenly have to change course while they were doing a unrep. Having the USVs running along aside task force wouldn't be such bad thing.

  20. taxingcharlotte | November 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Reply

    All I know is bullets are far cheaper. Frankly, when I see stories specifically against small boat/swarm boat threats, I think back to the Cole. When that association comes to mind I always think that, "even a free electron laser won't do you any good if you are suicidally handcuffed to bad ROE and lack of local tactical decision making authority." I love the advances. I applaud advances that make the result of a tactical or strategic decisions more accurate, efficient, and decisive. That said, sometimes I can't help but ponder how many of our people get hurt, despite all the great tech out there, for the simple want of clear tactical authority and decision making.

    To paraphrase an old proverb, the war was not lost for the want of a nail, but the want of a clear decision from 7000 miles away…

  21. To the person who asked about noticing WHO took the photo. Not trying to be a wise guy here, but. If you have any Classified, Military questions you'd like answered. Just visit the OBAMA.COM site, or WIKILEAKS.
    There's more TOP SECRET stuff there, and it's free for the taking, as long as you support Hamas, the Taliban, or the DNC.

  22. Saudi Arabia: Jewish Bloodline, Jewish State

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