The US Navy has issued an RFI for the purchase of up to 120 Blackwing 10C unmanned aerial systems (UAS) that can be launched from manned submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles.
The planned procurement is the latest stage in the navy’s submarine-launched unmanned aerial system (SLUAS) program, which is aimed at providing a low-cost solution for operations in anti-access/aerial denial (A2/AD) environments.
Blackwing employs a miniature electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) payload, selective availability anti-spoofing module (SASSM) GPS and AeroVironment’s secure digital data link (DDL).
AeroVironment developed the system as part of a 2013 Navy and United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) sponsored joint capability technology demonstration (JCTD) called Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine UAS against Mobile targets (AWESUM).
The demonstration concluded in September 2015 with a strong recommendation to transition the capability into the fleet, according to Aerovironment.
The US Navy said it was buying the UAS after they had already been tested and demonstrated successful integration with the rest of the SLUAS components and subsystems.
The ordering period of the planned indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract is projected to begin May 2021 and end May 2023, with deliveries beginning as early as August 2021.
Blackwing weighs 4 pounds (around 2 kg) and has a wingspan of 27 in (68.6 cm). The system deploys from a submerged submarine using an underwater-to-air delivery canister, and can also launch from ships or ground vehicles via tube or a multipack launcher.
USSOCOM order for JUMP 20 vertical take-off and landing UAS
On the same day of the US Navy RFI, Aerovironment revealed that the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) awarded the company a competitive task order for the JUMP 20 vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) UAS.
The order, valued at approximately $7 million, will allow Aerovironment subsidiary Arcturus UAV to compete for site-specific task orders and provide USSOCOM with unmanned aircraft systems services and support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. USSOCOM selected Arcturus UAV as one of six companies qualified for the potential $975 million Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) MEUAS contract in June 2020.
The competitive task order is for a one-year period of performance, which started February 3, 2021.
“Part of AeroVironment’s expanded portfolio of medium UAS, the fixed wing JUMP 20 is capable of vertical takeoff and landing, making it completely runway independent,” said Rick Pedigo, AeroVironment vice president of global sales and business development. “Runway independence maximizes the ability of customers to deploy the JUMP 20 in a broad range of locations and environments, while minimizing the logistical footprint required to operate it.”
AeroVironment recently demonstrated the JUMP 20 for the US Army Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (FTUAS) “Rodeo”, which took place from February 22 through March 5 at Fort Benning, Georgia.