"We can sink a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) at 100 meters," remarks a representative of a joint program between Raytheon's marine radar unit and Unifire, Sweden-based specialist in firefighting equipment. At the IMDEX maritime defense show in Singapore earlier today, Unifire and Raytheon unveiled their joint approach to non-lethal defense against typical pirate attacks.
The keys are that large ships often already carry water cannon for firefighting and that they are not regarded as weapons - which demand special training and may cause a ship to be restricted in using international commercial ports. Also, in addition to being powerful enough "to send an 85 kg barrel flying end over end at 75 meters", Unifire's water cannon systems are already equipped with precise, responsive joystick remote control systems so that operators are not exposed on deck.
The system is non-lethal and variable in its effects. With pepper-spray irritant, it is effective out to 200 m. Even if pirates take cover against the water blast at shorter ranges, 5000 liters of water a minute are apt to have a negative effect on a small boat.
Raytheon's contribution to the defense package is a small-craft tracking system that comprises a special processor linked to the ship's existing navigational radar. A land-based version is already operational in Spain and the Netherlands Antilles, for coastal surveillance against small, fast craft.
The processor sifts through short-range clutter for moving target tracks, using scan-to-scan and multi-hypothesis tracking to even pick up targets that may only appear in one out of three sweeps. A digital camera can be slaved to the radar for positive ID. Unifire has developed a networking system which connects the water cannon to the radar and camera displays.