Military

US Navy's Blackwing drones launch from underwater

US Navy's Blackwing drones lau...
The Blackwing drones are launched from a three-inch canister aboard submarines or unmanned underwater vehicles
The Blackwing drones are launched from a three-inch canister aboard submarines or unmanned underwater vehicles
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The Blackwing drones are launched from a three-inch canister aboard submarines or unmanned underwater vehicles
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The Blackwing drones are launched from a three-inch canister aboard submarines or unmanned underwater vehicles

The US military may soon welcome some new additions to its fleet of unmanned aircraft, with the Navy revealing plans to purchase a set of small drones that can be launched into the air from submarines and other underwater vehicles.

The Blackwing drones are launched from a three-inch canister aboard submarines or unmanned underwater vehicles, as part of already installed systems used for acoustic countermeasures. They could be daisy-chained to boost communications and potentially even weaponized as a self-defense option.

The aircraft was developed by AeroVironment and builds on one of the company's earlier drone designs, the Switchblade unmanned aerial system which was first deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2011.

Looking to offer the Navy a low-cost surveillance tool for contested environments, the company developed the Blackwing under a Navy technology program called "Advanced Weapons Enhanced by submarine UAS against mobile targets."

This program was completed in 2015 with a strong recommendation that the drones be incorporated into the Navy's submarine fleet, and it has now requested funds in the upcoming fiscal budget to do exactly that. The aircraft comes with electro-optical and infrared sensors, GPS modules, digital and encrypted communications capabilities and can fly for more than one hour at a time.

"So there's 150 small unmanned aerial systems coming in on submarines, so we're now buying them," Rear Admiral Richard told US Naval Institute News. "It's not something that you would [just] see on a PowerPoint presentation. These are fully integrated they'll go in talk back to the ship, talk to the combat control system and additionally we'll have 12 of a 21-inch torpedo tube launched vehicles with much longer launched duration."

Source: AeroVironment

3 comments
Dman528
Just thinking what they would defend the Submarine from... now adays, aerial threats can strike Submarines with air to surface torpedoes, so the Drones could be equipped to seek out aerial threats approaching the Sub's location. If the Torpedo is already launched, the drone could hopefully intercept it, and stop the Torpedo. If not stopping the torpedo by firing on it, than the Drone can intercept the torpedo on a collision course, destroying it before getting to the Sub. However, if able to stop by firing on torpedo, than the Drone could move on to the source, whatever Aeriel threat fired the torpedo.
This same defensive drone could be used to stop submerged torpedos launched from other subs as well! Only thing they may not be able to stop, would be depth charges from destroyers. Idk if they even use those anymore. I figure surface ships like destroyers would rather launch torpedo's as well!
This same drone tech could be developed to launch from ALL USN vessels... Carriers, Battleships, Cruisers, Destroyers, etc... any ship receiving a threat alert, launches a swarm of defensive Drones, all capable of launching their own rockets to stop threat, and if unable to, than can self target the incoming torpedo/rocket/missile targeting host ship, and anyone of the swarm could stop the incoming threat, those remaining could than refocus a new threat, or enemy vessel launching threats... all while the Host ship itself not worrying of defense, could focus on counter striking, to destroy threat.
Any drone vessel surviving would than rejoin the host for any repairs, refueling, rearming to launch again when needed! This could go for any Naval ship. Defensive measures on board the vessel could take a whole new approach and not be relied upon so much, with higher survive-ability rates.
This would really be interesting to see these in the near future! Before the Industrial Era, Nation's with the greatest Navy won wars. Amidst the Industrial and pre modern era, Nation's Navies with the greatest Air support, won wars. Now in modern Warfare, Nation's navies need superior Drone Support to survive! Sooner USN gets on board, the better.
Stephen N Russell
Use drones for Inshore Recon, scouting, SAR & weapons alone for SEAL Ops
snave
At a fraction of the cost of a torpedo and with small collateral lethality, the ideal solution to engaging small boats and low value targets... The sub retains its invisibility without increasing exposure to, or damage from low-tech weapons and programmable flightpath allows the weapon to approach from any direction, carry out surveillance overtly or covertly and potentially exercise a `measured response` against the threat assessment. Proportional-lethality and broader surveillance capability massively extends the capabilities of sub-surface weapons and removes `sledgehammer to crack a nut` cost-benefit analysis criticism. Surface vessels will ALWAYS be at risk, even in a low-tech threat environment. The implied and predominantly unverifiable threat posed by sub-surface systems could be a major stabilising influence - park your sub 40 miles offshore, launch the drone into the pirates home harbour; view every vessel that has weapons stored or fits the profile of a pirate vessel; destroy it while leaving all the other surrounding vessels undamaged. All in a silent, unattributable way.
Like it.