Below is a December 07, 2022, news release by U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs.
To me this is really exciting news. The Webber class has been doing some great work at surprising long distances, performing most of the functions of a medium endurance cutter. Their primary weakness as a patrol ship has been the lack of an organic search aircraft. I assume this UAS is operating from the area on the O-1 deck forward of the bridge that had been designated for vertical replenishment.
This from Aerovel, maker of the Flexrotor (follow the link for dimensions and performance),
Boasting a flight endurance of more than 30 hours and a 120-kilometer communications range, this all-weather aircraft has operated in some of the harshest conditions on earth. Flexrotor is excellent for expeditionary missions. Needing only a 20’ by 20’ area for launch and recovery, it takes off and lands vertically and easily transitions into horizontal wing-borne flight. The STUAS flies completely automatically after takeoff, with no pilot intervention needed. Flexrotor quickly assembles for flight and can be boxed and stowed in minutes by a single person.
The Flexrotor is, in most respects, in the same class as the Scan Eagles that are currently being deployed on National Security Cutters. It is not as fast as Scan Eagle but apparently comparable or greater endurance and requires no launch or recovery equipment. These systems may actually constitute an improvement, compared to searches by manned helicopters, because of their much greater endurance and sensors like the VIDAR used on Coast Guard Scan Eagle UAS..
Task Force 59 Launches Aerial Drone from Coast Guard Ship in Middle East
By By U.S. Naval Forces Central Command / U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs | December 07, 2022
MANAMA, Bahrain —
A U.S. Navy unmanned task force in the Middle East launched an aerial drone from a U.S. Coast Guard vessel operating the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 7.
U.S. 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from USCGC Emlen Tunnell (WPC 1145), marking a first for the task force with a U.S. Coast Guard vessel since the task force’s establishment in September 2021.
The launch also demonstrated close collaboration between the U.S. Coast Guard and Task Force 59 as U.S. 5th Fleet rapidly integrates unmanned systems and artificial intelligence to enhance monitoring of regional waters.
Task Force 59 is conducting Digital Horizon, a three-week event focused on integrating new unmanned and artificial intelligence platforms, including 10 that are in the region for the first time.
“Each day during Digital Horizon we have pushed to discover new capabilities, fast,” said Capt. Michael Brasseur, commodore of Task Force 59. “I am so proud of the team for their steadfast commitment to not only imagine new possibilities, but to deliver them.”
An Aerovel Flexrotor successfully took off and landed vertically aboard Emlen Tunnell, showcasing close collaboration between Navy, Coast Guard and industry partners to advance technology integration.
“We are so excited to be part of Digital Horizon and play a critical role by helping integrate new technologies into the fleet,” said Lt. Patrick Kelly, Emlen Tunnell’s commanding officer. “I am so proud of the crew for their dedication, commitment and professionalism, which made today’s success possible.”
The Flexrotor can support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions day and night using a daylight or infrared camera to provide a real-time video feed.
In addition to providing ISR capability, UAVs like the Flexrotor enable Task Force 59 to enhance a resilient communications network used by unmanned systems to relay video footage, pictures and other data to command centers ashore and at sea.
U.S. 5th Fleet established Task Force 59 more than 14 months ago. Since its launch, the task force has deployed a suite of new unmanned systems while integrating artificial intelligence at operational hubs in Jordan and Bahrain.
Emlen Tunnell is one of the Coast Guard’s newest Sentinel-class fast response cutters forward-deployed to Bahrain where U.S. 5th Fleet is headquartered. The ship helps ensure maritime security and stability across the Middle East.