Spartan-Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) of the Royal Singapore Navy (photo : Militaryphotos)
Singapore unveiled on Tuesday a fleet of remote-controlled vessels, which Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said would give the city-state a high-tech boost in the battle against maritime piracy and terrorism.
The two-tonne Spartan Scout Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV), which can be operated from a main warship, can be individually configured to carry out a range of missions including surveillance and anti-submarine warfare.
Teo, who witnessed a "live" demonstration of the Spartan's capabilities, said the remote-controlled vessels would strengthen Singapore's anti-piracy measures.
"The USVs allows ships to deploy such a vessel without getting the men into too close contact with a suspicious boat, which may have undesirable intentions," Teo told reporters after the demonstration.
Singapore is developing the Spartan in conjunction with the US Navy and expects to begin testing the vessels in local waters this year, the defence ministry said.
A less-equipped USV fleet that Singapore bought, the Protector series, is already in operation and was recently deployed by the Singapore navy during a deployment near Iraq to help US-led forces, according to the defence ministry.
Both fleets were presented to the media on the first day of Imdex Asia 2005, a regional maritime conference showcasing the latest maritime defence technologies and products of 23 countries.
Speaking earlier at the conference's opening ceremony, Teo, referring to the USVs as an example, said regional navies should engage in technological collaboration to combat pirates and potential terrorists lurking in the region's waters.
"We need to develop new technological applications for more effective ways of carrying out our maritime security missions," he said.
"In particular, unmanned surface vehicles can offer safer and more effective responses to maritime threats."
Teo did not say how much the USVs cost nor exactly how many Protectors the Singapore navy had, describing the fleet only as "small". No details were given on how far the USVs can operate from the main warship.