China has built the world's first armed amphibious drone boat which military analysts said could be used in land assault operations and is capable of forming a combat triad with aerial drones and other drone ships.
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, CSIC revealed on Friday via Sina Weibo.
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.
When approaching land, the amphibious drone ship can release four continuous track units hidden under its belly, and travel at 20 kilometers an hour on land, the Hubei Daily reported on Sunday, citing an unnamed company manager.
The manager also noted the maximum land speed can be increased if larger track units are installed.
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 manager said, noting it can autonomously sail, avoid obstacles and plan routes.
This amphibious drone boat is suitable for island assault operations as a swarm of such drone ships could lead an attack following a first wave of artillery and air strikes, an anonymous military expert told the Global Times on Sunday.
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, according to the Hubei Daily report.
Provided with world-class navigation by China's independently developed BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, the Marine Lizard can cooperate with other battle units in an integrated command system, the manager said.
The anonymous expert 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.
Having a maximum operation range of 1,200 kilometers, the Marine Lizard can be remotely controlled via satellites, the company manager said.
The drone is available for export, as it is developed with the needs of international clients in mind, according to a statement released by Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group.