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Moray Eel Hunter

A determined enemy approaching alone from the sea may soon find himself intercepted and tracked by a torpedo-shaped drone that will sound an alarm, flash lights and spot his exact location in the water.

The model now on display at the Navy League's Sea Air Space symposium in Maryland, submerged in a water tank and bearing a slithery Moray Eel along its sides, is being developed by SAIC as a non-lethal warning system.

What they're developing is a candidate technology for a solution to deterring swimmers, said Jim Pollock, mission capability manager for the War on Terror, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and project manager for the Integrated Swimmer Defense Program. "It's not necessarily a solution that the Navy has picked at this point."

The roughly 5-foot long Reusable Unambiguous Swimmer Warning Vehicle can do up to 8 knots. Once launched, it heads directly for its target, slowing down when near it and rising to the surface where it continues to circle the suspect swimmer's position and relaying it to handlers aboard ship or in port.

The system is equipped with GPS for surface tracking and a three-axis digital compass for underwater work.

For now, the system is being developed purely as a defense, warning tool, which is how it was packaged when it was submitted for budget approval.

But the mission of the Integrated Swimmer Defense System is to develop a means of thwarting combat divers and swimmers, so it's likely whatever interceptor drone eventually is built and fielded will also come with a lethal option.

The Predator, after all, began as a surveillance drone only, but now carries out combat attacks armed with two AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.

-- Bryant Jordan

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