Turkey has officially launched its first homegrown unmanned assault boat ‘ULAQ’. Jointly developed by Turkey’s ARES Shipyard and METEKSAN Defense, the fully-armed unmanned surface vehicle (USV) has undergone intensive sea trials and is ready for guided-missile tests.
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In a joint press release, the two companies said: “In the field of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs); we would like to proudly announce that we have launched the first Armed Unmanned Surface Vehicle of ULAQ series, and have initiated the intensive sea trials period. From now on, our next short term target is to complete the sea trials successfully and carry out the guided-missile firing tests.”
In a video released, the vessel can be seen armed with a variety of munitions, including two L-UMTAS antitank missiles and four 70mm Cirit antitank/antipersonnel missiles, supplied by Turkish missile systems provider Roketsan. Firing tests are planned towards the end of the first quarter of 2021.
“Since the very first announcement of ULAQ Unmanned Systems, we have encountered significant interest from our country and our allies. This interest and support have given us great incentive to design and build unique, state-of-the-art solutions,
“We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Turkish Ministry of National Defense, The Presidency of Defense Industries and Turkish Naval Forces, and all our citizens who have provided full support since the very first launch of ULAQ program,” the statement read.
According to reports, ULAQ has been built from advanced composite materials, can reach up to speeds of 65 km/hr (35 knots), and is equipped with modern Electro-Optical/InfraRed (EO/IR) sensors to conduct reconnaissance and surveillance operations.
It is also equipped with ‘encrypted communication infrastructure’, and can be used for various roles like surface warfare, intelligence gathering, escort, and strategic infrastructure protection, in addition to the aforementioned roles.
The vessel can be operated from mobile vehicles, aircraft carriers, or similar command & control ships in a fleet, and has a range of 400 kilometers currently. One prototype has been built and, very importantly, can operate autonomously having AI algorithms on its onboard computers in addition to manual modes.
The ULAQ will also be armed with advanced electronic warfare systems keeping in view of the future warfare requirement and diverse operational needs. The vessel will be able to coordinate with other ships nearby and complementary forces like UAVs and other USVs.
The military application of Unmanned Surface Vehicles has seen an upward trend globally, along with UAVs and swarm drones. Such systems could significantly increase the detection and surveillance capabilities of any naval force, as they have proved to be far more intelligent and less vulnerable to errors in detecting enemy movement.
Such USVs will also help in providing escort to larger ships while navigating through piracy-prone regions. They can also provide a huge boost to anti-submarine warfare. The United States has been developing the ‘Sea Hunter’ USV as part of its Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.