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The US Navy has successfully tested an unmanned aircraft system aboard its guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) during a composite unit training exercise (COMPTUEX).

The newly tested RQ-20A Puma (Block II) is the latest version of the all-environment unmanned aircraft models.

The system is suitable for situations that require enhanced manoeuvrability, such as maritime interdiction and counter-piracy operations.

Ensign N Sanchez said: "When I first checked aboard USS Gonzalez I wasn’t expecting to get the opportunity to run the Puma project, but after working with the equipment and people, I realised its capabilities are innovative and resourceful.

"It augments what we are already capable of doing. It really aligns with the chief of naval operation’s mandate to ‘operate forward and be ready’."

The system has the capability to operate in temperatures ranging from -20°F to 120°F, an inch of rain per hour, and wind speeds of 25k.

RQ-20A Puma, which weighs 13.5lb with a wingspan of just over 9ft, features smart batteries and waterproof body and will be capable of performing a variety of missions worldwide.

"We have learned a lot of lessons that will prepare us for deployed PUMA operations on destroyers."

The UAS can be controlled by a two-person team locally, while it can also be remotely controlled from inside the ship.

After completing operations, the system can land on the ship’s deck in a net or in the ocean with follow-on retrieval by rigid-hull inflatable boat.

Commanding officer commander Stefan Walch said: "It has been exciting to field this technology in a robust environment such as the Composite Training Unit Exercise.

"We have learned a lot of lessons that will prepare us for deployed PUMA operations on destroyers."

USS Gonzalez is participating in COMPTUEX with the Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group.

Image: Quartermaster 3rd class N Wylie launches PUMA II, a small unmanned aircraft system aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66). Photo: courtesy of US Navy Photo by mass communications specialist 2nd class D C Ortega / Released.