Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems is promoting its Seagull maritime unmanned surface vehicle as a low-cost submarine hunter and minesweeper.
The company's vessel is the first USV developed without a conversion from a standard, manned boat, and was specifically designed not as a patrol boat but for destruction of mines and submarines.
At $12 million to $25 million per vessel, a country eager to reinforce its military buy wary of its high budget deficit, like Israel, could regard the Seagull as a bargain. Standard minesweepers can cost as much as $200 million.
The 40-foot, aluminum boat was unveiled in May, and resembles a recreational motorboat but is equipped with torpedoes and most importantly, no crew. Its redundant features allow a replacement component to take over if a primary component fails, removing the need for a repair technician.
The market for USVs is expanding rapidly, and Israeli defense contractors like Elbit, Rafael and Israeli Aerospace industries, better known for airborne drones, are active in the field. The expansion comes at a time when mines are prominently in use in the Persian Gulf, notably by Iran and Yemen's Houthi rebels.
Countries which Israel perceives as nearby enemies have also expanded their submarine fleets; while the Israel Defense Force has five submarines, Iran has over 30, largely torpedo-equipped "midget" submarines about 100 feet in length and built to travel in shallow water.