The US Navy has developed and demonstrated a submarine-launched unmanned aerial system (SLUAS).
It is to be used for beyond line-of-sight targeting solutions, and it was deployed in September 2020.
Rear Adm. Dave Goggins, program executive officer for Submarines, speaking November 18th in a webinar for the annual symposium of the Naval Submarine League, said the SLUAS was “a pretty awesome capability to provide to the fleet.”
Goggins said in a PowerPoint briefing that mid-tier acquisition authorities approved in March 2019 were used to begin the project in May 2019.
Three demonstrations were conducted in 2019 and 2020. Initial operational capability was achieved in September.
Only eight months after the project was started, the Navy conducted an at-sea demonstration of the SLUAS from the Los Angeles-class SSN USS Annapolis, launching them “from periscope depth, control them out to tactically significant ranges — well beyond the line of sight,” Goggins said.
“By doing so she was able to target and conduct a rapid simulated torpedo attack against a participating surface ship, in case the USS Charleston, pretty much at near-maximum effective range of that torpedo, by flying that UAV to obtain a fire-point solution after gaining that initial sonar gain.”
Another demonstration was conducted against a surface ship and a land site. So far, 21 SLUAS UAVs have been employed in demonstrations.
The Defense Innovation Unit, which partnered with non-traditional industry companies to reduce cost and enhance capability, completed final flyoffs in July.
“I have five SLUAS shipsets in the fleet today and we will continue to deliver this capability,” Goggins said. “We’re really working on the evolution of that capability going forward.”
The characteristics and appearance of the SLUAS UAV are unknown, as well as its “non-core” parent developer and manufacturer.
In 2016, the US Navy signed a contract with AeroVironment for the purchase of its Blackwing UAVs for deployment on submarines.
However, there was no information about the development of this program, and this could be a potentially entirely different program.
In addition, on November 3, 2020, the US Navy issued a Request For Information to the industry to create another SLUAS system – a miniature UAV capable of launching from submarines from a standard 3-inch (76.2 mm) device for launching signal flares – Signal System Ejector (SSE). Such a device must be in the air for at least an hour, have a range within the radio horizon and have a secure data transmission channel.
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