- Russian state-owned arms maker Rostec has reportedly developed the world’s first unmanned underwater vehicle armed with an assault rifle.
- Rivals Russia and China have put an increased emphasis on enhancing their respective undersea warfare capabilities through the use of underwater drones.
A Russian state-owned arms maker reportedly unveiled the world’s first underwater drone armed with an assault rifle that’s designed to defend naval bases from enemy divers and assault teams.
“The drone is fitted with an underwater assault rifle. It has undergone sea trials,” Rostec, the company behind the drone’s development, told Sputnik News at the the International Military Technical Forum “Army 2018.”
“Full-fledged trials will begin closer to the start of winter. It is a unique project since no one has so far fitted [an underwater drone] with small arms. Moreover, very few [countries] in the world have underwater automatic small arms.”
It is unclear exactly what type of assault rifle the company has placed on the drone, but The National Interest reports that Russia developed the APS underwater rifle based on the AK-74 assault rifle in the 1970s. Whether the underwater system works is difficult to independently verify.
The purpose of this unusual unmanned underwater vehicle is, according to Sputnik, to “protect port facilities, bridges, naval bases and ships from enemy combat divers and underwater drones.”
Russia and China, like the US, have both put increased emphasis on underwater warfare, particularly powerful unmanned platforms.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly boasted in March about the development of a new nuclear-powered underwater drone, which the US Department of Defense’s Nuclear Posture Review references as a new “nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.”
The Poseidon drone, designated as Kanyon by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), can “carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications, and infrastructure,” Putin said earlier this year.
Russia announced Thursday that it is also striving to develop unmanned warships.
China, on the other hand, is developing autonomous robotic submarines relying on artificial intelligence platforms to patrol the seas. These large, smart, low-cost unmanned underwater drones could be deployed in the early 2020s, the South China Morning Post reported in July, citing scientists involved in the project.
The subs “can be instructed to take down a nuclear-powered submarine or other high-value targets. It can even perform a kamikaze strike,” one researcher introduced, adding, “The AI has no soul. It is perfect for this kind of job.”
US underwater drones are primarily used for anti-submarine detection, minesweeping, and reconnaissance and surveillance missions. The US Navy uses bottlenose dolphins to defend its bases from underwater intruders and to locate sea mines.