A Chinese company has revealed an independently developed unmanned missile boat with reconnaissance and attack capabilities, claiming it as the first of its kind in China.
Guangdong-based Yunzhou Tech, also known as Oceanalpha, debuted the Look Out II vessel to the public at Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province on Tuesday.
Loaded with four precision missiles that can hit targets 5 kilometers away, the vessel is also equipped with a radar and electro-optical system enabling it to carry out reconnaissance missions, according to a statement the company sent to the Global Times on Tuesday.
The Chinese naval drone, 7.5 meters long and 2.7 meters wide, has a displacement of 3.7 tons and can sail at 45 knots at its full speed, the statement said.
Su Zhen, Look Out II project director, told the Global Times at the show on Wednesday that although the vessel was relatively small and its missile could not reach very far, it was fast and stealthy, enabling it to get nearer its target and launch close-quarters strikes.
"It is not the Look Out II's goal to sink an enemy vessel on its own," Su said. "As long as we damage the enemy ship's key structure like the command center, armory or engine room, it is enough for us to get the upper hand so that we can follow up," he said.
Su said that an unmanned surface vessel is significantly cost-efficient compared to a traditional naval ship. Because it is unmanned, no operator casualty will occur.
The company claims that Look Out II is the first unmanned missile boat made in China and the second in the world. The first was developed by Israel.
The development of Look Out II indicates that China is globally competitive in making unmanned surface vehicles and is of significant strategic meaning as China did not have such vessels in the past, the company said.
Look Out II conducted its first missile test in late October. It successfully hit the target at the first attempt, the statement said.
Su said that while the drone can automatically sail the sea and choose optimal routes with artificial intelligence (AI), the use of weapons is still done manually through remote control.
"We cannot have AI determine the life and death of humans," Su said.
In June Yunzhou conducted a test in which 56 unmanned boats formed a formation dubbed a "shark swarm."
Su said that Look Out II can use a similar tactic or even team up with naval drones with other capabilities.
The company is already offering unmanned boats capable of electromagnetic countermeasures, patroling, escort and reconnaissance, Su said.
"The user can form different formations according to the situation on the battlefield," he said.
Military experts said a large number of armed unmanned surface vehicles can overwhelm enemy vessels.
Yunzhou is eager to deliver its products to the People's Liberation Army. Foreign countries including Namibia have also expressed interest, according to the statement.