Six years ago the military wanted to be able to launch an unmanned aircraft from a submerged submarine. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory on Thursday announced that dream has become reality with the successful launch of a small drone from a submerged submarine. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) was behind the program with funding from SwampWorks at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office (DoD/RRTO).
The all-electric, fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) was fired from from the Los Angeles class USS Providence (SSN 719) submarine while it was submerged. The XFC UAS (eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System), as the military calls it, was fired from the submarine’s torpedo tube using a ‘Sea Robin’ launch vehicle system.The Sea Robin launch system was designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors. The submarine was able release the Tomahawk launch canister from the torpedo tube and then on the surface of the water the tube floating like a buoy opened and out came the drone.