China's new killer robot ship that can carry out anti-submarine and anti-ship missions has undergone its first sea trial, according to a Chinese defence industry magazine.

Called the JARI, the unmanned surface vessel is said to be the world's first USV with multiple roles - anti-submarine, air defence and surface combat - and powerful weaponry.

The prototype was launched in August and was recently photographed during a sea trial, according to a report in the latest issue of Ordnance Industry Science Technology.

It did not give details of when or where the trial took place.

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Equipped with an active phased array radar and other advanced electronic systems - similar to those on the US Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyer or China's Type 052D guided-missile destroyer - it has been dubbed the "mini Aegis destroyer".

Its sonar system can track underwater targets 7km away.

The 15-metre (49-foot), 20-tonne (22-short ton) ship is being developed by China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation (CSIC) and has a range of 500 nautical miles and a top speed of 42 knots.

Its weaponry gives it the scope to carry out anti-submarine, air defence and anti-ship missions. The drone has a 30mm (one-inch) cannon, close-range air defence missiles, two small surface-to-air and anti-ship missile launchers and two anti-submarine torpedo launchers.

"The JARI USV can be loaded onto an aircraft carrier or amphibious assault ship to provide their strike groups with extra reconnaissance and attack platforms," the report said.

"When the technology has been developed, these ships will even be able to launch a wolf pack attack on the enemy's large surface vessel."

But technological barriers remain, according to the report. They include fast deployment and retrieval, and navigational safety, including during difficult conditions at sea.

The advanced unmanned surface vehicle is transported during the trial. Photo / Supplied
The advanced unmanned surface vehicle is transported during the trial. Photo / Supplied

The JARI was first revealed in 2018 by its developers at the CSIC, the 716 and 702 research institutes. It drew international attention when they took it to the International Defence Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi last year.

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Many other countries are also working on killer drones because they are low-cost, highly mobile, stealthy and can be used to carry out dangerous missions.

The US Navy has deployed several types of USVs for jobs such as minehunting and detecting submarines. It is also working on two large unmanned surface vehicles, or LUSVs.

The 2020 US defence appropriations bill budgeted US$400 million for the two drones that are 200 to 300 feet long, with a displacement of about 2000 tonnes, under a research and development programme, and the US Navy requested a further US$2.7 billion for eight more of the vessels in the next five years.

The LUSV will be as big as a frigate and able to carry out various unmanned missions, with or without manned surface ships.

"[It] will be capable of semi-autonomous or fully autonomous operation, with operators in-the-loop (controlling remotely) or on-the-loop (enabled through autonomy)," the US Navy said.

- South China Morning Post

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