Drone Launch and Recovery System in 20 foot Container

NavyRecognition reports DARPA is working on a system that will launch and recover drones of up to 900 pounds that will fit inside a standard 20 foot container.

These could easily handle the Scan Eagle, which is only about 50 pounds currently planned fo the National Security Cutters. Significantly it could handle even more capable UAVs. The UAV in the video weighs 400 pounds.

This is a part of DARPA’s TERN program we discussed earlier.

UAS for the Webber Class?

Coast Guard Compass is reporting that the R&D Center has conducted tests of an unmanned aerial surveillance system from the Webber class WPC Richard Etheridge.

The experiment is being done on the cheap, using surplus Marine Corp WASP III UAS.

This particular aircraft is very small (less than a pound), with a maximum speed of about 40 knots, an endurance of about 45 minutes, and a nominal range of 5 km, so it is not going to get very far from the launch platform. Sensors are limited to color and IR video, so it is still like “looking through a staw” in terms of its ability to search, but it might be useful for taking a closer look at targets, without the necessity of moving the CG vessel to intercept, particularly at night; for documenting a drug bust; or for keeping an eye on the disengaged side of a potentially hostile target during a boarding. The recovery method used was to land in the water, but we could certainly do better.

I can’t say I am particularly impressed with what I have seen of the system so far, since I can pick up something similar at the local hobby shop (google “First Person Video”). I have a friend who flies one, including the ability to use GPS to fly way-points and automatically return to the launch point and land, all for less than $1,000, but it is a start and at least it is a recognition of a need and an opportunity.

Still think we could fly Scan Eagle from the WPCs.

Bird’s Eye View for Ships

 Photo:  Valkyrie Virtual Mast System model   Kelsey D. Atherton 

ThinkDefence reports L3 is resurrecting an old idea to extend the horizon distance for  surface vessels. Their “virtual mast” puts sensors at high altitude without the need for a helicopter or UAV. Popular Science has a bit more detail, reporting that the proposed system could fly as high 5,000 feet. Sensors at that altitude would have a radar and visual horizon of 76 nautical miles.

Not sure how they would warn off air traffic that might otherwise hit the cable or the autogyro.

Historical Note: During WWII German U-boats used a similar unpowered tethered autogyro to take a lookout aloft, but their altitude was much more limited.

Recapitalization Plan in Eight Slides

FierceHomelandSecurity has a slideshow that summarizes the “Recapitalization Plan” in only eight slides.

If you have been following this web site, there won’t be much new here, but I did note a couple of things that might be significant (or maybe not).

In describing the Webber class Fast Response Cutters (FRC), their endurance is now described as seven days instead of the five that was the contract minimum. (Always figured they were probably good for more than that.)

In describing the Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) the speed is given as specifically 25 knots, not as a range from 22 to 25. I hope this is true, because it the increase from 22 to 25 makes the ships a lot more useful as potential naval vessels, if we ever need them to go to war.

The slides do seem a bit out of date in calling the helicopters HH-60 and HH65 instead of the current designations, MH–60 and M-H-65.

DARPA program to develop long-range UAVs for launch from small ships

Military Aerospace and Electronics is reporting a contract, “…to develop a medium-altitude long-endurance UAV for long-term maritime surveillance that can launch and recover from relatively small ships to provide airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and strike mobile targets anywhere, around the clock…The ultimate goal for a TERN UAV and launch system to enable persistent ISR and strike capabilities with payloads of 600 pounds while operating at ranges as long as 900 nautical miles from a host vessel.”

These would apparently be fixed wing UAVs , with two aircraft being able to maintain a 24 hour a day orbit. A flight demonstration is expected in 2017.

Note the small ships they refer to are only small compared to aircraft carriers, “The TERN system should be able to operate from several relatively small ship types in rough seas, including the 2,784-ton Independence-class littoral combat ship (LCS), which is 418 feet long and 104 feet wide, with a large aft-located flight deck. Other ships of interest are amphibious transport docks, dock landing ships, and Military Sealift Command cargo ships.”

They might still be capable of operating from some of the Coast Guard’s largest ships.

Brits Test UAVs from 89 foot Vessel

Think Defense is reporting Britain’s DSTL (Defense Science and Technology Laboratory) is contucting trials of UAVs from the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Combatant Craft Division’s experimental craft Stiletto.

Three different UAVs were picked for the demonstration and launched from Stiletto’s flight deck, including DRS’ Neptune. DSTL personnel were on board, and observed launch, payload operation, and recovery evolutions near Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Patuxent River

I hope the Coast Guard will look at the results. It appears there is a good possibility of operating UAVs from the Webber Class Fast Response Cutters.

NAVAIR and CG Work ISR Interoperability

Defense Industry Daily provided the video above with the encouraging news that NAVAIR and the Coast Guard are working together to develop an open architecture system that will permit real time data link of “video and metadata” including the ability of, what I believe is a Response Boat, Medium, to take control of the camera on the airborne Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) asset.