US Navy launches drone from submerged submarine

December 6, 2013 12:49 | By | Add a Comment

Remember the famous “Skunk Works” labs, which produced groundbreaking technology like the F117A? Well the Navy has their own department called “Swamp Works” which does the same, only with more water. And recently, they launched a UAV from a diving submarine, which is an interesting tactical option for future submarine commanders.

XFC Unmanned Aerial System

Operating under support of the Los Angeles class USS Providence (SSN 719) and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center-Newport Division (NUWC-NPT), the NRL developed XFC UAS—eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System—was fired from the submarine’s torpedo tube using a ‘Sea Robin’ launch vehicle system. The Sea Robin launch system was designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors.

Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin and flew a successful several hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Andros, Bahamas.

Interestingly the airborne surveillance vehicled called “XFC” doesn’t run off normal LiXX batteries but fuel cells. Launches can be performed from stationary pickup tricks or other small vehicles, not just submarines.

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