Chinese company Yunzhou Tech revealed an independently developed autonomous missile boat with reconnaissance and attack capabilities, claiming that it is the first of its kind ever made in China, Global times reported.
The Look Out II (Liaowangzhe-2) vessel was unveiled to the public at the Airshow China 2018 in Zhuhai, South China’s Guangdong Province on November 6th.
The Global Times also cited a statement it had received from the company that the boat is 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.
It is essentially a naval drone, it’s 7.5 meters long and 2.7 meters wide, has a displacement of 3.7 tonnes and can reach a speed of up to 45 knots.
On November 7th, the Global Times spoke to Su Zhen, Look Out II project director. According to him, what the vessel lacks in size and missile range is made up in stealth and speed. Thus, the boat can get nearer to its targets 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.”
Su claimed that an unmanned surface vessel is significantly cost-efficient compared to a traditional naval ship. And obviously, due to it having no crew there is no danger of human casualties.
The company also claims that the Look Out II is the first autonomous boat developed in China and the second in the world. The first one being Israel’s Protector, which in March 2017 also became the first naval drone to fire a missile. Furthermore, on November 6th the Israeli boat carried out a successful missile firing demo for NATO.
The statement by the Chinese company also claimed that in late October, the Look Out II also successfully passed its first missile test. Su also said that AI will be used to sail the seas and choose optimal routes, however weapon fire will be conducted remotely by a human.
“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 apply a similar tactic or even team up with naval drones with other capabilities.
He also said that his company is already offering unmanned boats capable of electromagnetic countermeasures, patroling, escort and reconnaissance.
According to Defense One, despite reportedly rapid advancement of Chinese unnamed naval vehicles, the US “still appears to have the edge in sophisticated seagoing drones.”
The U.S. has been the leader in highly autonomous ocean vessels since August 2014, when the Office of Naval Research staged a breakthrough demonstration on Virginia’s James River. 13 autonomous boats conducted a series of complex, coordinated maneuvers to protect a high-value ship and harass enemy vessels. Furthermore, in 2016, Navy testers carried out a demonstration that showed the boats could identify threats, without requiring a human to assess the situation.
Despite that, China has claimed to be making significant progress in its unnamed vehicles, be it aerial or naval. Development on its AI-controlled submarines also seems to be continuing.
China maintains that it’s developing its unmanned naval capabilities simply for patrol missions and deterrence.