The US Navy plans to deploy AeroVironment’s Blackwing, a small, tube-launched unmanned aircraft system that deploys from under the surface of the sea, on manned submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles.
Blackwing builds on AeroVironment’s extensive operational experience with small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and its Switchblade Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System (LMAMS) to provide the Navy with a low cost, submarine launched unmanned aircraft system optimized for Anti-Access/Aerial Denial (A2/AD) environments.
AeroVironment developed the Blackwing system as part of a 2013 Navy and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) sponsored JCTD called Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets (AWESUM). This JCTD was completed in September 2015 with a strong recommendation to transition the capability into the fleet. Blackwing employs 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), all packaged into a vehicle that launches from manned and unmanned submarines.
“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 U.S. Navy’s undersea warfare community and the Special Operations community,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment. “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”.