The US Navy intends to deploy a AeroVironment-engineered Blackwing reconnaissance system that launches from platforms completely submerged undersea, including manned submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles.

The Blackwing system was developed by AeroVironment as part of a successful Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration (JCTD) called Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets, that was sponsored by the navy and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) in 2013.

The JCTD, which was completed in 2015, recommended transitioning the capability into the fleet. Blackwing reconnaissance systems are small, tube-launched unmanned aircraft systems.

"Delivering innovative solutions that enhance our customers’ capabilities benefits the US Navy and USSOCOM."

Building on AeroVironment’s operational experience with small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and its Switchblade lethal miniature aerial missile system (LMAMS), Blackwing is aimed at providing the navy with a low-cost submarine launched unmanned aircraft system suited for anti-access / aerial denial (A2/AD) environments.

It features an advanced, miniature electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, selective availability anti-spoofing module (SASSM) GPS, and AeroVironment’s secure Digital Data Link (DDL).

AeroVironment vice-president and unmanned aircraft systems business segment general manager Kirk Flittie said: "AeroVironment’s new Blackwing unmanned aircraft system is a valuable new capability that resulted from our team’s close collaboration with, and responsiveness to, the US Navy’s undersea warfare community and the special operations community.

"Delivering innovative solutions that enhance our customers’ capabilities benefits the US Navy and USSOCOM, and creates new business opportunities for us.

"In addition to operating from undersea vehicles, Blackwing can also be integrated with and deployed from a wide variety of surface vessels and mobile ground vehicles to provide rapid response reconnaissance capabilities that help our customers operate more safely and effectively."

Image: US Navy to install AeroVironment Blackwing unmanned aircraft system on submarines. Photo: courtesy of Business Wire.