Seapower Magazine (on-line) is reporting that Canada will equip its Coastal Defense ships with the Puma AE RQ-20B small unmanned air system (sUAS). These ships of the Kingston class, are a bit smaller than the Coast Guard’s 210 foot cutters and have no flight deck.
These ships frequently cooperate with the Coast Guard in drug interdiction operations, with a USCG Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) on board.
Below can be seen the Mantis i45 sensor as installed on the Puma sUAS
This might be a candidate for a sUAS to operate from the Webber class WPCs. I can see some useful scenarios, such as providing overwatch while doing a law enforcement boarding, but I still think we need something more capable of providing a more persistent and more wide-ranging search. Still a combination of a sUAS like this and the TALONS (Towed Airborne Lift of Naval Systems) might be very effective. The recovery methods I have seen so far, for this system, either landing on the flight deck of an icebreaker or landing in the water don’t seem satisfactory.
Still I would suggest we take a look at what the Canadians are doing. We might want to send an R&D rep who has participated in our previous examination of sUAS to ride one of these ships during the last half of a drug interdiction patrol, so they can get input from both the Canadians and the LEDET.