Israel : Autonomous USV System That Fires Torpedoes

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Elbit Systems completed recently a trial test torpedo launch from its Seagull multi-mission, autonomous Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) system.

Performed out of Israel’s Haifa port, the trial demonstrated the capability of Seagull to install and launch lightweight torpedoes, adding to the platform’s sensory capabilities.

The Seagull is designed to carry out unmanned maritime missions, such as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) counter-mine operation, protecting high-value assets inshore and offshore. Lightweight torpedoes are often used by anti-submarine vessels, helicopters, and aircraft against submarines located in shallow waters.

This is the first instance where such weapons are used from unmanned platforms.

“The success of this test demonstrates Seagull’s modular mission system capability, enabling a highly effective ASW configuration of high-performance dipping sonar using two single tube torpedoes,” said Ofer Ben-Dov, Vice President Naval Systems Business Line at Elbit Systems’ ISTAR Division.

The test highlighted Seagull’s capacity to detect and engage submarines, in addition to its ability to detect and destroy sea mines – all using the same multi-missionUSV system in modular configurations.

“This new and important capability has, to date, only been available to navies through manned vehicles.” Ben-Dov added.

Introduced earlier this year, Seagull is a 12-meter long multi-mission USV system equipped with one or two vessels that can be operated and controlled in concert from manned ships or from shore.

Seagull provides multi-mission capabilities and can be employed for ASW, MCM, EW, maritime security and other related missions, leveraging modular mission system installation and offering a high level of autonomy. In its basic configuration, the Seagull was armed with remotely operated weapon station mounting a 0.5” machine gun.

In its full configuration, the advanced USV system delivers unmanned end-to-end mine hunting operation capability, taking the man out of the minefield.

It features inherent C4I capabilities for enhanced Situation Awareness (SA) and has a large fuel capacity that allows it to remain at sea for several days.

Seagulls are designed to operate in pairs, with one carrying the sonars that detect and locate the targets and the other operating devices such as counter-mine robots, depth charges and ASW torpedoes to neutralize the threats.

Elbit Systems developed the Seagull USV system so that two vessels may be employed and controlled simultaneously.

Additionally, the same Mission Control System (MCS) may command multiple unmanned vessels operating in other sectors.

This offers the client substantial cost savings and enhanced operational effectiveness, as the same command trailer may be used to control unmanned vehicles at sea, in the air and on the ground.

The Seagull USV is controlled by means of a line-of-sight communication link that is effective to a range of about 100 kilometers or through a satellite communication link effective at longer distances.

As far as underwater capabilities are concerned, the Seagull USV is fitted with a fixed forward sonar system in the hull plus a towed sonar array. Additionally, it carries a torpedo launching system. This means that the Seagull USV can close the circuit on a submarine target by remote control. As the combination of the two sonar systems provides it with a detection capability with a radius of a few kilometers, this is a nightmare scenario as far as the submarine is concerned.

“The primary concern of every submarine commander is being detected,” says Ofer Ben-Dov, VP at Elbit Systems’ ISTAR Division and the person in charge of naval systems at that division.

“This is the reason why such a vessel constitutes a deterrent factor, among other things.

If the opponent knows that  unmanned vessels are scanning your territorial waters regularly with overlapping coverage, during day and night, they will think twice about sending a submarine into that area.”

In addition to submarines, the Seagull USV can also detect divers, and when fitted with a remotely-controlled weapon station, it can neutralize intrusion attempts by naval commandos.

Another capability of the Seagull USV is detection of naval mines.

This is one of the most popular tactics for preventing offensive naval operations. At the present time, naval mines constitute a major threat to military and civilian vessels.

For Elbit Systems, the task of ‘cracking’ the best way to deal with naval mines was a rather complex technological challenge.

The solution they came up with is a process that begins when the Seagull has detected the naval mine.

Once the mine has been detected, a specialized robot is deployed to trigger the mine.

Seagull uses a specially designed mount optimized for remotely controlled operation. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-UpdateSeagull uses a specially designed mount optimized for remotely controlled operation. Photo: Tamir Eshel, Defense-Update

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