The US Navy has awarded unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) manufacturer AeroVironment a $2.5 million contract for further work on the US Navy’s small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) program.
The contract follows the first successful launch of a Blackwing UAV from a submerged position and will see the company deliver multiple Blackwing vehicles, sensor payloads and refurbishment kits.
The initial set of vehicles are anticipated for delivery by May 2018, while the final ones are to be delivered by November 2018.
“Since first being deployed just a few months ago, Blackwing has delivered valuable new capabilities to United States naval undersea warfare units,” said Kirk Flittie, AeroVironment vice president and general manager of its Unmanned Aircraft Systems business segment.
“This contract is consistent with the Navy’s plans to resupply existing vessels and equip additional submarines with the Blackwing capability.”
Blackwing is a small, tube-launched unmanned aircraft that employs an advanced, miniature electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, integrated inertial/GPS autopilot system and secure Digital Data Link (DDL), all packaged into a vehicle that launches from under the surface of the sea, from manned submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
AeroVironment developed the Blackwing system as part of a 2013 Navy and United States Pacific Command (PACOM) sponsored Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration (JCTD) called Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets (AWESUM). This JCTD was completed in September 2015 with a strong recommendation to transition the capability into the fleet.
“Blackwing can also be integrated with and deployed from a wide variety of surface vessels and mobile ground vehicles to provide rapid response reconnaissance capabilities,” Flittie said.
This contract was awarded to AeroVironment by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport (NUWCDIVNPT).