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US Navy to Acquire 120 Submarine-Launched ‘Flying Periscopes’

The US Navy is set to acquire 120 submarine-launched unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for its fleet of underwater vessels from AeroVironment.

The request for proposal to buy the Blackwing 10C drones expects the acquisition process to be complete by May 2023 and the first UAV to arrive by August of this year.

The small drone (wingspan of 27 inch or 68.6 centimeters), at only four pounds (1.81 kilograms), provides high-speed data and communication relays across domains from undersea and surface vessels through a built-in secure digital data link, the California-based developer said on its website.

Moreover, its miniature electro-optical and infrared sensor provides “rapid-response intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance” while performing a range of missions such as mine-hunting.

Two-Step Launch Process

The UAV is launched through a two-step process wherein a canister containing the drone is ejected first from an underwater vessel. The canister then surfaces and shoots the drone into the air.

Underwater UAV launch capability was first demonstrated by the Navy in 2013. The service has been testing the Blackwing since then, according to The Drive. 

Initial Operational Capability Designation

According to Rear Admiral Dave Goggins, program executive officer for Submarines, the Blackwing received its initial operational capability designation from the service in September of last year after a series of demonstrations in 2019 and 2020, Seapower magazine reported.

The UAV, which is being procured under the Submarine-Launched Unmanned Aerial System (SLUAS) Program, has already been “developed, tested, and demonstrated successful integration with the rest of the SLUAS components and subsystems,” the Navy said.

AeroVironment “is the only known responsible source that possesses the facilities, tooling, equipment, manufacturing expertise, and technical expertise to provide the required Blackwing 10C UAVs within the Government’s required delivery and ordering period.”

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