The U.S. Navy has deployed new drones launched from submarines to spy out targets and enable torpedo attacks on ships sailing far beyond the horizon. By acting as the sub’s eyes and ears, the drone can greatly increase its strike range – and keep the submarine well away from any defensive weapons or sensors.
The deployment was revealed by Rear Adm. Dave Goggins, program executive officer for Submarines, in a webinar at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium.
Goggins called the new submarine-launched unmanned aerial system (SLUAS) “a pretty awesome capability to provide to the fleet.”
Modern torpedoes like the Mk 48 Mod 6 Advanced Technology are limited by the range of sensors. Officially the Mk 48 has a range of ‘greater than five miles’; unofficially it is believed to be somewhat over 30 miles. The problem though is that it is difficult to detect, positively identify and track a target at that sort of range from as submerged submarine.
These days submarines do not raise a periscope for an attack, which would give away their location to radar; instead, everything is done from sonar. But, depending on conditions, this might only give a ‘target solution’ – a precise fix on the target vessel – from a few miles away.
The drone solves all that. It is launched underwater from a 3-inch tube normally used for noisemaking decoys, bobs to the surface and then takes off, unfolding wings and an electric propeller. Equipped with daylight and night vision cameras, it relays data back to the submerged submarine. While sonar might have difficulty picking out one specific vessel from a group, the drone can easily identify and give the exact location, speed and bearing information needed to launch a torpedo. (end of excerpt)
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