A US Navy submarine has made a successful launch of an aircraft while submerged. The submarine used in the test was the USS Providence. The UAV launched by the submarine was a small fuel-cell powered unit that was able to fly a mission lasting several hours.
During the UAVs mission, it was able to stream live video back to the submarine, surface support ships, and a naval command base before the UAV landed at a land-based location. The Navy says that it took less than six years to produce the fuel cell powered UAV and its underwater launch system from concept to fleet demonstration.
The project was conducted in collaboration with the US Naval Research Laboratory with funding from SwampWorks at the Office of Naval Research and the DoD Rapid Reaction Technology Office. The Navy says that the successful test launch from a submerged submarine brings a path to giving subs mission critical intelligence, surveillance, and recon capability.
The UAV launched from the sub used a Sea Robin launch vehicle system fired from the sub’s torpedo tube. The Robin system was designed to use an empty Tomahawk launch canister that is already familiar to submarine crew. The XFC UAS (eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System, took off vertically from the Sea Robin once it was at the surface. the drone is fully autonomous and has an endurance of more than six hours.