Oil tankers passing through waterways threatened by pirates could soon carry weapons to ward off attacks.
Oil tankers passing through waterways threatened by pirates could soon carry weapons to ward off attacks. Defence company BAE Systems has suggested the weapons would act initially as a deterrent but could be used in extreme circumstances. Pirates have stolen or attacked dozens of ships in north Africa's increasingly notorious Gulf of Aden in recent years.
While a coalition of various countries is now patrolling the gulf, which runs between Somalia and Yemen, pirates are still causing problems for merchant vessels and cruise ships.
BAE is showcasing its Remote Guardian System at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon, outside Melbourne, this week.
Company vice-president John Nix says the system has a reach beyond defence forces, especially in increasingly asymmetric conflicts around the globe that have no obvious frontlines and can see commercial interests targeted.
"It could be on a Chinook (helicopter), it could be on a humvee, it could be on the front end of a large tanker," Mr Nix told AAP on Thursday.
The type of gun used with the system can also be changed.
What makes the system a potential for commercial operators is its remote operation - removing much of the risk of fatalities.
A remote that looks more like an Xbox controller than a serious weapon makes the Guardian easier, Mr Nix said, for non-military trained users.
"It has an application, it can be remotely operated from the (ship) bridge," he said.
"We know that there's folks looking at that kind of application.
"It's a last line of defence, it is a lethal defence."
The Remote Guardian was designed by BAE in its own labs and on its own time, rather than as a contract request and is already certified by the US navy and air force.
This trip to Australia is one of the first for BAE Systems and Mr Nix says he is hopeful of building the company's business in the country.