At the recent Hybrid Fleet Campaign Event (HFCE) for the US Naval Forces Southern Command 4th Fleet, AeroVironment put its new JUMP 20 uncrewed aerial system (UAS) through its paces aboard the USNS Burlington.

AeroVironment announced 7 November that the JUMP 20 had showcased its ability to launch and recover aboard the Spearhead-class vessel while the Burlington was travelling at 20 knots. 

The HFCE, previously referred to as Fleet Experimentation Program (FLEX), took place between 4-13 October, evaluating technology aboard the fast transport Burlington for future operations, as part of a campaign to operationalise cutting edge technologies, with a focus on uncrewed systems in advanced kill chains, contested littoral environments, survivability and sustainment at sea.

Also aboard the Burlington during HFCE was an Aerosonde UAS that provided aerial targeting information and visual confirmation during the event, allowing an uncrewed surface vessel to fire an inert Poniard rocket at a floating target, and then assess the battle damage caused by the effector. This demonstration marked the first completely uncrewed kill chain for these vehicles. 

Aboard the USNS Burlington, the JUMP 20 uncrewed aerial system demonstrated a completely autonomous launch and recovery while the vessel travelled at 20 knots. Photo courtesy of AeroVironment.

In land combat deployments JUMP 20 has flown over 130,000 hours in support of US Special Operations Command. Its demonstration at HFCE was intended to show applications for ship-based intelligence, surveillance reconnaissance and targeting (ISR-T). Expanding JUMP 20’s operations into the shipboard environment adds a global dimension to the reach of its capabilities. 

At HFCE Jump 20 was a part of a human-machine teaming operation with a fully autonomous leg wherein the UAS demonstrated its vertical takeoff and landing capability aboard the Burlington, using neither takeoff or landing equipment, nor personnel on the flight deck during either process. 

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“The shipboard flight environment is dynamic and challenging. JUMP 20 is a proven combat-effective platform, and the system’s performance during HFCE illustrates the value to maritime operations. JUMP 20’s ability to launch and land at speed, and without personnel intervention, enhances the ship’s operational effectiveness and enables operators to focus on important mission tasking,” said Shane Hastings, AeroVironment’s vice president and product line general manager for Medium UAS.

The Burlington is an Expeditionary Fast Transport 10 (EFT-10) Spearhead-class vessel that can reach from 35 to above 45 knots at top speeds, allowing it to be used for rapid transport and deployment of conventional and special forces in intra-theatre operations. The vessel is a 103m shallow-draft catamaran, the 10ths ship in a class of 12, produced by Austal, from a contract valued at AUS$2.5bn for the entire fleet.