Home » Budget Industry » Navy Set to Buy AWESUM Miniature Sub-Launched UAVs

Navy Set to Buy AWESUM Miniature Sub-Launched UAVs

USS Mississippi (SSN-782) conducts alpha trials in the Atlantic Ocean in 2012. US Navy Photo

USS Mississippi (SSN-782) conducts alpha trials in the Atlantic Ocean in 2012. US Navy Photo

THE PENTAGON — U.S. attack and guided missile submarine are set to field miniature unmanned aerial vehicles that will act as the eyes and ears not only for the boats below water but also help special operations forces and strike aircraft target weapons, the Navy’s Director of Undersea Warfare told USNI News last week.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2017 budget submission to Congress, the Navy is asking for small Blackwing UAVs to be launched from attack and guided missile submarines, the Navy’s director for undersea warfare Rear Adm. Charles Richard told USNI News.

“So there’s 150 small unmanned aerial systems coming in on submarines, so we’re now buying them,” Richard said.
“It’s not something that you would [just] see on a PowerPoint presentation. These are fully integrated they’ll go in talk back to the ship, talk to the combat control system and additionally we’ll have 12 of a 21-inch torpedo tube launched vehicles with much longer launched duration.”


2013 PEO Subs Slide on AWESUM Program. NAVSEA Image

2013 PEO Subs Slide on AWESUM Program. NAVSEA Image

According to a follow-on statement provided by the Navy, “the three-inch canister launched UAVs are part of Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets (AWESUM) demonstrates submarine launch, data sharing and control across the Joint Force.”

The current year budget move is set to further operationalize a years-long program to use small UAVs from attack and guided missile boats.

Naval Sea Systems Command Program Executive Officer Subs briefed the AWESUM program publically in late 2013 and outlined the work with U.S. special operations forces (SOF) and the U.S Air Force.

The briefing slides from late 2013 indicated the Blackwings would communicate with a submarines antennas and could provide third party targeting information to aircraft through Link 16 data links. In addition to the targeting function, the UAVs could also possibly be weaponized as a defensive measure for submarines operating in the littorals.

The miniature UAVs are launched through the boats’ existing systems it uses for acoustic countermeasures and have a flight endurance of less than an hour, according to the 2013 presentation.

NRL's XFC Sea Robin demonstration in August 2013. US Navy Photo

NRL’s XFC Sea Robin demonstration in August 2013. US Navy Photo

In 2013, the Navy Research Lab (NRL) also tested larger Sea Robin UAV, powered by fuel-cell technology and launched from a modified Tomahawk Land Attack Missile canister.

  • James Bowen

    Very interesting.

  • DaSaint

    Some capabilities just shouldn’t be publicized.

    • Western

      totally agree. Should have kept this one under out hat as long as possible. Very cool, though. Might even help the OOD to avoid other ships when coming into port.

      • USNVO

        Not disagreeing, but this has been under development (and discussed in unclassified sources) since at least 2000, so not sure this specific announcement makes any difference. Having said that, this would seem like a capability you would want to keep under wraps as long as possible.

  • sferrin

    OTH strike but we cancelled our only OTH weapon (Sea Lance) years ago. Fail.

    • USNVO

      So sub launched Tomahawk and sub launched Harpoon can’t fly over the horizon? And yes, I know the US withdrew the sub launched Harpoon from service but it doesn’t mean it can’t be reissued if required.

  • Joe Momma

    I have seen some stuipd Acronyms in my days but this one takes the CAKE, (Cockamamie Arial Kickstand Equipment).

  • Joe Momma

    Guess I should have said Cockamamie Arial Klandestine Equipment?



  • publius_maximus_III

    Terrible idea, IMO.

    A submarine’s greatest strength is it’s stealth, right up until the moment of attack. Launching such a drone, if detectable by enemy radar and sonar, would announce the presence of the sub long before it was ready to take action against that enemy.

    • USNVO

      By that logic, using the periscope or communications antennas would also be a terrible idea. Look at who the partners are in this endeavor.

      • publius_maximus_III

        The higher something is, the further is its horizon, logically speaking. Would not recommend positioning a barrage balloon 1000 ft. above our boomers.

    • Subsailor

      Reading the data box, it’s possible to launch the canister and it will float for a preset time, then launch and begin it’s mission. That would allow the launching boat to reposition and/or move closer to the target as well as gain separation from the launch, maintaining stealth.

      Very clever that they managed to package the drone into a canister for the 3″ countermeasures launcher.

      • publius_maximus_III

        Ah-so. That would be more like it.

  • Hugh

    I think I read somewhere that German submarines in WW2 sometimes towed a crew-member aloft with a kite in order to expand their search horizon.

    • Donald Carey

      Yes, they did – it was called the Focke Achgellis FA 330 A-1 Bachstelize.

    • El_Sid

      Modern versions include L-3 Valkyrie and (sort of) DARPA’s TALONS system.

  • bee bop

    Make them biodegradeable using Elmer’s Glue and fish food, and 3D print’em on board.

  • michael aller

    Of course that works both ways. Oh look there is a small UAS so there must be an enemy Sub nearby.