China has successfully tested the world's first armed amphibious drone boat which the Chinese military analysts claimed could be used in land assault operations and is capable of forming a combat triad with aerial drones and other drone ships, according to a media report.
Built by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group under China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC), the drone ship, named Marine Lizard, successfully passed delivery checks and left factory on April 8 in Wuhan, capital of Central China's Hubei Province, state-run Global Times reported on Monday.
Having a maximum operation range of 1,200 kms, the Marine Lizard can be remotely controlled via satellites, an official said.
In ship form, the 12-meter-long Marine Lizard is a trimaran propelled by a diesel-powered hydrojet and can reach a maximum speed of 50 knots while maintaining stealth, it said.
When approaching land, the amphibious drone ship can release four continuous track units hidden under its belly, and travel at 20 kms an hour on land, the daily report quoted an unnamed official as saying.
The official said the maximum land speed can be increased if larger track units are installed.
With about USD 178 billion defence budget, the two million strong Chinese military, the world's largest, has been focussing on developing a range of new weapons in recent years.
The Marine Lizard's payloads include an electro-optical system and a radar system. In the weapon department, it is equipped with two machine guns and a vertical launching system for anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, the official said.
“It can autonomously sail, avoid obstacles and plan routes,” he said.
This amphibious drone boat is suitable for island assault operations as a swarm of such drone ships could lead an attack following the first wave of artillery and air strikes, an anonymous military expert told daily.
“Approaching land from the sea is a dangerous task, and the Marine Lizard can take advantage of its unmanned nature to discover enemy positions and provide suppressive fire as troops follow,” the expert said.
The drone boat is also a great choice for coastal defense. The company manager said it can remain dormant on an uninhabited island for up to eight months before engaging in combat once it receives orders, the report said.
Guided by China's BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, the Marine Lizard can cooperate with other battle units in an integrated command system, the official said.
He also pointed out the amphibious Marine Lizard can possibly form an unmanned sea-land-air integrated combat system with aerial armed reconnaissance drones and other drone ships, which can engage in combat with great efficiency and low risk of casualties, the officials said, adding that it is also available for exports.