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Protector all set to go against pirates

Navy considers sending remote-controlled boats to challenge pirates.

The USS Winston S. Churchill follows a suspected pirate vessel in the Indian Ocean. U.S. Navy

Pirates have grown mighty bold around the Horn of Africa of late--so bold that the Navy is reportedly considering the deployment of 30-foot, armed robo-boats to challenge the dusty buccaneers. Surely they'll mend their ways.

Pirate RPG round stuck in metal hull. No word on how Hypalon inflatable tubes would hold up to similar abuse. U.S. Navy

The Navy began testing the Israeli Protector unmanned surface vehicle (USV) last year. There is a civilian version of these rigid-hulled inflatables built by Rayglass Boats in New Zealand, a common enough sight around any harbor that's even used as the official chase boat for the America's Cup. But you'd hardly equate these with the unmanned version.

Extensively tweaked by defense contractors RAFAEL, BAE Systems, and Lockheed Martin, the Protector looks to be a full-on armed plug-and-play, anti-terror surveillance and reconnaissance marauder (PDF). It comes equipped with a stabilized mini-Typhoon, remote-controlled weapon station (PDF) cameras, radar equipment, and Toplite electro-optics.

And in this corner: Somali pirates generally operate out of a brace or more of what look to be 6- to 9-meter outboard-driven, open-fishing skiffs. Armed with RPGs and AKs, they either surround and intimidate a ship into stopping or lure them in with false distress calls, according to the International Maritime Bureau. In any case, it seems fair to assume that they would dearly like to get their hands on a remote-controlled Protector.