US Navy launches drone from submerged submarine

US Navy launches drone from submerged submarine
Sequence photo of the launch of the XFC (Photo: NAVSEA-AUTEC)
Sequence photo of the launch of the XFC (Photo: NAVSEA-AUTEC)
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Sequence photo of the launch of the XFC (Photo: NAVSEA-AUTEC)
Sequence photo of the launch of the XFC (Photo: NAVSEA-AUTEC)

Today, the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) announced that it had successfully launched a drone from a submerged submarine. The all-electric eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System (XFC) was launched in the Bahamas from the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine USS Providence (SSN 719) using a system that allowed the drone to be deployed without modifications to the boat, or requiring it to surface.

The XFC unmanned aircraft was developed by the NRL in less than six years from initial concept to current stage. It’s all electric and powered by a fuel cell that allows it to stay aloft for more than six hours. According the the NRL, the UAV is relatively low cost, flies at low altitude, and is designed for Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions. The craft has folding wings and is designed to be launched from a pickup truck or small surface vessel.

For the submarine test, the XFC was placed inside of a “Sea Robin” launch vehicle. The Sea Robin fits inside of a standard vertical Tomahawk missile launch tube, such as those aboard the USS Providence. After launching, the Sea Robin rose to the surface and took on the appearance of a spar buoy.

After the Sea Robin opened, the XFC used its electrically-assisted take-off system to raise itself vertically out of the container, and after reaching operating speed and altitude unfolded its wings for horizontal flight. The XFC flew for several hours as it beamed back a video feed to the Providence.

It then returned to the submarine and its surface support vessels before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), on Andros Island in the Bahamas.

Source: US Naval Research Laboratory

While this is interesting, IMO it is not as interesting as the (re)discovery of the Japanese Sen Toku I-400 class submarine found off the coast of Hawaii recently. It was one of the largest non-nuclear subs ever built, it had an astonishing range, and it carried and launched 3 manned aircraft which could drop bombs (which made it a submarine aircraft carrier!). All of this was achieved in WWII.
It was apparently scuttled to keep the design and technology away from Russian hands.
I think it would be more cost effective to just put a different payload on proven submarine launched cruise missile designs.
Toffe Carling
Hm, so it pops up to the surface..then launches? now very efficient is it? why not make it go up straight like the missile? Full power from under the waves? With a fall off nose tip? Booster to get it up and out of the water then it takes over.
But yea, nice invention to start with, tho not sure the world needs more drones about.
I see this as very bad news about a tragic perversion of technological innovation. Just what we need, more drones.
I think this is way cool. It will allow a submarine to check out an area before surfacing to make sure it is safe. Since it is electric / fuel cell powered, it will make less noise and less likely to be noticed as it checks out the area it is going to.
i'm all for saving the lives on the submarines, but am wondering how secure the communications are between drone and sub. also wondering if the drone is hackable and retrievable...does it float?
we should be worried about it if this were the landing photo.
Impressed and freaked out at the same time. With further development, it will likely possess kill capabilities as well as surveillance. Drones have killed and created much hate and more terrorism. This death wish is counter productive, unless that is precisely the objective...
EEEEK!! AAAAAK! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! ITS A DRONE!!!! you know people when they say there will be 50,000 drones operating in the NAS in a few years they are not going to have guns on them or be interested in what freaky things you are doing in bed. they will be looking at wheat crops, rivers where fish live, monitoring pollution, looking for lost hikers, dropping life rings to drowning swimmers, helping fight forest fires, making maps, monitoring power lines, looking at the radiation from damaged reactors like fukushima, taking medical supply's to people stranded in remote areas after natural disasters, and on and on and on. if all you can see is the negative side of these thing than you need to get some help. because these "drones" have many uses beyond that if you only look for them.
Don Duncan
Uncle, what sneaky drones you have.
All the better to spy on you, my pretty.
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